Jan Brokken

The Gardens of Buitenzorg

Long before Jan Brokken (1949) was born, his parents lived in Indonesia, a Dutch colony at the time. Brokken never knew much about that part of his parents’ past.

He only ever knew his mother as a pastor’s wife in a traditional village in Holland. After his parents’ death, his aunt hands him the letters and photographs that her sister Olga had sent her from abroad. In tender, sensitive and tentative fashion, Brokken searches these letters for the woman who, during her life, had always remained a stranger to him. Who was she before becoming his mother? What inspired her, what did she think about?

Olga turns out to be much more liberated and idealistic than he remembers. She enjoyed learning foreign languages, had in-depth discussions with intellectuals and connected, by giving sewing lessons, with the women around her. Brokken, who has a number of wonderful books about music to his name, interweaves his journey with the life story of Lithuanian composer Leopold Godowsky, who fell under the spell of Indonesian gamelan music.

Brokken brings every sentence to life. The Gardens of Buitenzorg is vintage non-fiction by an internationally esteemed craftsman.

De Standaard

Jan Brokken travels through history and comes home.

Dagblad van het Noorden

Jan Brokken

Jan Brokken (b. 1949) has, in a literary career spanning thirty years, written books about a number of exotic and far-off places, including West Africa, the Dutch Caribbean, Indonesia and China, winning acclaim for his adventurous attitude and sensitive style. He gained international fame with The

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De tuinen van Buitenzorg (2021). Non-fiction, 224 pages.
Copies sold: 30,000

Sample translation

English (PDF document)


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