Sander Kollaard has won the prestigious Libris Literature Prize 2020 for his novel A Dog’s Day (Uit het leven van een hond, Van Oorschot). The prize is awarded annually to the best Dutch literary fiction title of the previous year, and consists of 50,000 euros and a bronze medal. The winner was announced in a live broadcast of Nieuwsuur.
‘Although the jury chose the winner of the Libris Literature Prize 2020 well before the pandemic, the novel of our choice seems to fit well with the current period, which is dominated by a far-reaching event of which we can hardly see the dramatic consequences. How nice to have a modest counterpart to that: a book that revolves around the little things in life and the everyday, about a very ordinary life in which nothing special is going on and for that very reason offers comfort,’ the jury praised A Dog’s Day.
Sander Kollaard (b. 1961) has lived and worked in Sweden since 2006. He made his debut in 2012 with the short story collection Immediate Return of Your Loved Ones, which was awarded the Lucy B. en C.W. van der Hoogtprijs. His first novel, Stage Four, was published in 2015 and was selected Book of the Month by the influential Dutch talk show, De Wereld Draait Door. The novel went on to sell over 10,000 copies. The English translation (published by Amazon Crossing) was made by Michele Hutchison, who was awarded the Vondel Translation Prize for it.
A Dog’s Day
A Dog’s Day tells the story of nurse Henk van Doorn, 56 years old. Henk is a thoughtful man who struggles with his weight and his way of dealing with the world. Other people can make him angry, but he keeps his thoughts to himself. One day, when Henk is out walking his dog Schurk, the dog suddenly lies down at the side of the road. Henk suspects that he’s sick and strokes his head reassuringly. Out of the blue, a somewhat dishevelled-looking woman appears and goes to get him some water. Henk, taken aback, is aroused. He can’t help but find her attractive. The feeling surprises him. One thing leads to another as the summer day unfolds.
Kollaard reveals the beauty hiding in small, everyday occurrences. We, the readers, are left expecting the catastrophe that will befall our anti-hero. But the calamity never comes. A sweet, thoughtful man like Henk ultimately deserves some form of happiness - a beautiful outcome for this optimistic and brilliantly-written novel.
A rich book, full of marvellous phrases, metaphors and observations; at the same time, it is all implicit, calm and small. That is what Kollaard is all about: showing greatness in the ordinary. Kollaard shows what literature can do.
There is no other Dutch writer who can make life shine and sparkle the way Sander Kollaard does.
De Groene Amsterdammer