Jeroen Brouwers

Jeroen Brouwers

Jeroen Brouwers (1940-2022) grew up in Indonesia, worked as an editor at Manteau publishers in Brussels for twelve years and subsequently settled in the Netherlands.

Photo: Annaleen Louwes

His debut, the story collection Het mes op de keel (The Knife to the Throat, 1964), and the novel Joris Ockeloen en het wachten (Joris Ockeloen and the Waiting, 1967) went scarcely noticed in the Dutch literary world. That ended in 1973 with the publication of the novella Zonder trommels en trompetten (Without Fanfare) in which Brouwers weaves his thematic web on death, love, loss and the past that is to inform his later work, such as the novel Zonsopgangen boven zee (Sunrises at Sea, 1977), which was a great critical success.


Brouwers’s work has strong autobiographical elements, such as in the sketches Groetjes uit Brussel (Greetings from Brussels, 1969), in the polemical novel Het verzonkene (The Submerged, 1979, awarded with the Multatuli Prize) and in Bezonken rood (Sunken Red, 1981). He has written caustic and witty polemic tracts against literary currents or authors whose integrity he calls into question. De laatste deur (The Final Door, 1983), essays on suicides in Dutch-language literature, was reprinted three times within a year. Alongside his other essay and letter collections of 1976-1986, entitled Kroniek van een karakter I & II (Chronicle of a Character I & II, 1986-87), the novels Winterlicht (Winter Light, 1984), De Zondvloed (The Deluge, 1988, awarded with the F. Bordewijk Prize) and Zomervlucht (Summer Flight, 1990) appeared. In the decade to follow he published a number of essay collections and his own literary journal, Feuilletons.

His novel Geheime kamers (Secret Rooms, 2000) was unexpected but became a resounding success. It met with unanimous praise and won the Flemish Golden Owl Award, the AKO Literature Prize 2001 and the Multatuli Prize. In 2007 Brouwers was awarded the prestigious three-yearly Dutch Literature Prize (Prijs der Nederlandse Letteren) for his entire oeuvre.

With Het hout (The Wood, 2014), the first Dutch novel on child sexual abuse in the catholic church, Brouwers won the ECI Literature Prize. In 2018 he has been awarded an honorary doctorate at the Radboud University of Nijmegen. Client E. Busken (2020) was awarded the Libris Literature Prize 2021.

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