From the Life of a Dog
A strong, psychological novel about love and ageing, with a John Updike-like atmosphere
Sander Kollaard has made his mark with critically acclaimed collections of short stories and the novel, Stage Four. He writes about major life themes in a calm, balanced style, or as one critic put it: ‘Writing from the heart, but with the head, that always produces the most beautiful literature.’ His second novel is a love story and a book about humans and animals in one.
It’s a little after six in the morning on a summer’s day. Nurse Henk van Doorn, 56 years old, wakes up and considers going back to sleep, but nagging thoughts of a conversation he had with a colleague and his irritation with his brother Freek’s attempts to influence his life keep him awake. He thinks of his dog, Schurk, and decides to get out of bed: ‘He can get up. And he gets up, driven by a lust for life, smiling about the free Saturday that, like a child, skips out ahead of him.’
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. At the local cheese shop, he runs into a neighbour. He’d rather not chat with him, but he does anyway. He eventually escapes the situation, but not before helping a mother with her stroller.
While Henk is out walking Schurk that morning, 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.