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Frans Kellendonk

Frans Kellendonk (1951-1990) belonged to a generation of writers who elevated the dichotomy between fiction and reality to a major theme of their work, with a strong emphasis on form. During his short life, Kellendonk created an impressive oeuvre of novels, short stories, essays and translations. From his debut Bouwval (Ruin, 1977), the ghost story Letter en geest (Letter and Spirit, 1992) to his final novel Mystiek lichaam (Mystical Body, 1986) Kellendonk won the admiration of readers and critics alike with his masterly expressive capabilities and sublime command of the language.

Bouwval

(J.M. Meulenhoff, 1977, 159 pagina's)

This collection of short stories became a great success and the young author was awarded the Anton Wachter prize. Far from being a form of self-expression, writing, Kellendonk says, is a form of study by means of the imagination. In the title novella Bouwval, ten-year-old Ernst discovers one day to his joy that he is able to have ideas, even though his first, during a family visit to his grandfather, is laden with doom. He had hoped he was the crown prince who would one day lead his family to fortune; instead, he learns that he comes from a branch of the family notorious for its liars and layabouts.

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Mystiek lichaam

Mystiek lichaam

(Athenaeum-Polak & Van Gennep, 1986, 195 pagina's)

The publication of Mystical Body caused a sensation in the Dutch literary establishment; a number of leading critics accused Kellendonk of anti-Semitism. This was a serious accusation which led other critics to reach for their pens to defend the writer and refute the charge. So who was right? While Kellendonk employs a number of clichéd images that have traditionally been projected onto Jews, he does so in such a way that the clichés are always recognisable as such. At no point does he actually endorse these views himself. A possible problem for the critics is the ironic way that Kellendonk plays with stereotypes in general, not just those associated with Jews. Kellendonk couples these…

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