Willem Frederik Hermans

Au Pair

Pauline, a Dutch student, wishes to study in Paris and gets a job as an au pair. At the first family she works for, she lives in a miserable little attic room and they make her pay for her breakfasts. In the second family there is an old general, his wife, sons, a grandson and a number of servants. There she is living on Easy Street: she has a beautiful room, clothes, shoes, whatever she desires. She really does not have to lift a finger for anything. Every so often she listens to the general’s stories about the war and about the artist Guys, who has also worked in her home town of Vlissingen.

The whole family is quite remarkable and though Pauline has everything she needs she still feels uneasy. Finally, she is asked to deliver a suitcase full of money. Not everything, however, goes as she had expected. An amusing, skilfully told story that despite some obscure references and literary play with truth and falsehood has attracted a broad reading public.

It is a combination of thriller and philosophical formulation that makes Au Pair into a novel in which Hermans displays all his abilities. The so-called natural tone, which every great writer possesses, the ease of the conversations, the breadth of subjects and in particular the ingenious construction in which, looking back, everything has its place.



Willem Frederik Hermans

Willem Frederik Hermans (1921-1995) is one of the greatest post-war Dutch authors. Before devoting his life to writing, Hermans taught Physical Geography at the University of Groningen for many years. He had already started writing and publishing in magazines at a young age. His polemic and…

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Au Pair (1989). Fiction, 415 pages.


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