Allard Schröder

Sebastian’s Nose

A novel of illusion, and an ode to romance and magic

The tenth novel of one of the Netherlands’ finest stylists is about the power of memory. Or rather, the power of memory to deceive. Schröder paints a sensitive, sensual and colourful portrait of a man who is transported back in time to his first love by the smell of a cigarette.

Sebastian Welsend is fired shortly before he is to retire from his job at a bank. He decides to take up smoking again. At an elegant dinner, he finds himself daydreaming about his first love. He comes to a stunning realization: lighting a cigarette is what makes the memory come back— “The smoker awoke the cynic’s nostalgia, so that together they willingly, wistfully, lost themselves in the golden summers of their youth.”

His first love’s name was Henriëtte Clinger, but she preferred to be called Henri. They were childhood friends, hiding from the world among the books in a private library. Sebastian would listen to her playing the piano while lurking in the bushes outside her house. But it took him longer to grow up than it took Henri, so by the time he reached puberty, he had lost her, and life took a different turn. Threaded throughout this book is the realization that when it comes to love, reality doesn’t hold a candle to the memory of it—or the imagined memory of it, since the two are virtually impossible to tell apart.

Schröder skips back and forth between the present and the past, until a brain tumour threatens to erase all of Sebastian’s memories. He nevertheless travels to the American hamlet of Prosperity to look for Henri, only to be told that he has just missed her. In the end, however, as if sent by God at the right time, he winds up being given a role to play in her life after all.

Schröder beautifully evokes the mechanism of memory and pseudomemory, driven by associations and dissociations. Moments in which literature splashes all over you in a big wave, and insinuates itself into every nook and cranny of your body.

NRC Handelsblad

An ode to the magical universe, against which our plain, rational world forms stands out in sharp contrast. The fact that he is able to pin down that world in such a convincing way is mainly thanks to his brilliant and fantastical style, as well as his imagination.


Splendid, enigmatic novel about the humdrum life we never expected or dreamt we would have, but with which are obliged to make do.

Nederlands Dagblad

Allard Schröder

Allard Schröder (b. 1946) is a writer, essayist and poet. He made his debut in 1989 with the novella De gave van Luxuria (The Gift of Luxuria, 1989). It was followed two years later by De muziek van zwarte toetsen (Music on the Black Keys, 1991). His first full-length novel Raaf (Raven, 1995) was…

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Sebastiaans neus (2016). Fiction, 448 pages.
Words: 140,000

Themes: memory


De Bezige Bij

Van Miereveldstraat 1
NL - 1071 DW Amsterdam
Tel: +31 20 305 98 10
Fax: +31 20 305 98 24

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