The life of a tormented, damaged young soul
Eric van Poelgeest is a tormented soul, damaged inside and out; the scar on his face is like the mark of the devil. As a child he was forced to have his hair in a crewcut, so everyone could see his disfigured features.
While his brother, a resistance fighter, lies on his death- bed, Eric is fighting a war of his own. The Netherlands has entered the most gruelling months in its history: the hunger winter of 1944. ‘Looking around, you’d never know my brother was dying,’ he thinks. ‘There are buttercups in the bloody grass and flowering rushes in the ditches. The peace that passeth understanding.’
To avoid being sent to a German labour camp he has gone into hiding in a deserted art academy building. He has no idea what to do with his rage and his energy, so he paints and takes refuge in loveless sex with two women friends.
As in Kort Amerikaans, Jan Wolkers’s brother Gerrit died in the Second World War at the age of twenty-two. Death permeates Wolkers’ entire oeuvre, both visual and literary. Nevertheless, he regarded death as part of life: ‘If there was no death, everything would become pointless.’
- Many of Jan Wolkers’ novels have been made into films. Turks fruit (Paul Verhoeven, 1973) with Rutger Hauer playing the lead, Kort Amerikaans (Guido Pieters, 1979) and Terug naar Oegstgeest (Theo van Gogh, 1987).