One of the Netherlands’ most controversial and beloved writers
No author from the Netherlands has influenced later generations so profoundly as Gerard Reve – the marriage of eloquence and everyday banality is central to his style of writing. Before the publication of his debut novel De Avonden, Reve wrote two impressive novellas.
The Downfall of the Boslowits Family is set during the Holocaust, yet nowhere is this theme made explicit. Instead we watch through the eyes of an Amsterdam boy as the family of one of his friends slowly loses everything and is then taken away. The only one left behind is the father, who later takes his own life. Because the word ‘Jewish’ is never mentioned, the reader senses this could have happened to anyone.
Werther Nieland is a novella set in the working-class Amsterdam neighbourhood where Reve grew up. It is the tale of young Elmer, who longs to make friends and tries to control the world around him by forming secret clubs, of which he is the president. When he invites Werther to become a member, a game of attraction and repulsion begins. It is a psychological masterpiece; in just a few words, Reve conjures up a child’s whole world, full of oppression and enchantment.