Willem van Toorn

Willem van Toorn (b. 1935) spent his holidays with family in the Betuwe, a rustic area in the centre of the Netherlands. As a result, he became familiar with the landscape of large rivers which often appears in his work. After a brief career as a chemical analyst and teacher, he devoted himself to literature. His first book, the novella De explosie (The Explosion) was published in 1959, followed a year later by his first volume of poetry.
The novel Een leeg landschap (‘An Empty Landscape’, 1988), in which he expresses his anxiety about the corrosion of the river landscape, brought Van Toorn long-deserved recognition. The novel was shortlisted for the AKO Literature Prize. Later works such as Het verhaal van een middag (‘The Story of an Afternoon’, 1994) and De rivier (‘The River’, 1999) were also highly praised.
The author has also translated works by such authors as Kafka, Isherwood, Updike, Zweig, Doctorow and Klaus Mann.

De rivier

(Querido, 2000, 311 pagina's)

‘Why did you take me with you?’ Willem van Toorn asks his father forty years after the event he still vividly recalls meeting his uncle Geurt in the middle of the war, on a deserted railway platform. ‘You didn’t come with us at all,’ his parents reply. Van Toorn wonders: ‘If I can be so mistaken, then how much of what I remember is true?’ It is a beautiful start to a novel about memories. The River is the river Waal, symbol of the countryside of the Betuwe, home of the writer’s parents before they moved with their family to Amsterdam.

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(Querido, 2005, 256 pagina's)

Steam is a captivating novel about a turning point in Dutch history: the general strike of 1903. Railroad workers fought for their right to form a union and negotiate their position. Forced to choose between freedom and solidarity, the main character, Maarten Corbelijn, opts for freedom, at least initially.

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