Harm de Jonge

The Scent of Rusty Iron

Joeri has still got a bottle of aftershave that belonged to his dad, who doesn’t live at home any more. When he smells it, it’s just as though his dad’s there. And then Joeri can even talk to his dad, about the Turkish girl Nesrin, for example, who smells like rusty iron, the best smell that Joeri knows.

Nesrin races around in scrap cars and dreams of the poppy fields in the Zviccyn Valley, where she was born and where her mother is buried. Her father always promises that they’ll go there on holiday but, much to the anger of Nesrin, it doesn’t come to anything.

And then there’s the ancient Bruno Levie, who wants to go to the Valley of Butterflies in Israel. Three people, each with their own dreams: they find each other on a strange journey in an old car.

The use of language in this work by De Jonge is so evocative that you can feel and smell the colourful contrasts of the characters.

This is a brilliant book about friendship and loneliness, about loss and about going in search of what has been lost.

Harm de Jonge

Harm de Jonge (b. 1940) is an author who occupies a special place in Dutch children’s literature. He grew up during WWII and the post-war reconstruction as the son of a barge captain who transported coal. He went on to work as a Dutch teacher and taught and wrote about other writers for years.…

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De geur van roestig ijzer (2005). Children's books, 96 pages.

Sample translation

English (PDF document)



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