Jan Wolkers

The Death’s Head Moth

Paul’s father has died. We find out about him through Paul and from comments made by his widow and his other children. It’s like turning the pages of a photograph album to learn about a person: a straightforward pater familias well versed in the scriptures, a keen fisherman. In contrast, his son Paul is a teacher who lives alone, has a grown-up daughter and sometimes resorts to prostitutes.

He hates his father for the punishments and beatings he endured as a child. He himself seems to have chosen a completely different way of life, yet he finds it difficult to forget the biblical quotations that peppered his father’s speech. Driving to see his dying father, Paul crashes into an oncoming car driven by a young woman whose head hits the windscreen. At the same instant his father dies.

Paul visits the woman in hospital, and is as intrigued by the symbolic butterfly shape of her plaster mask as he is by Carla herself, by the way they have been thrown together. Yet he fails to get anywhere with her.

De doodshoofdvlinder is a literary masterpiece, one of Wolkers’ best.

De Volkskrant

An absorbing story.

Vrij Nederland


Jan Wolkers

Jan Wolkers (1925-2007) grew up in a large Calvinist family. After studying at the end of the war at art schools in The Hague and Amsterdam, he worked for a year as a sculptor in Paris. While there, he began to write and a short story was published in 1957. In 1961 Serpentina’s petticoat, his…

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De doodshoofdvlinder (1979). Fiction, 255 pages.


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