Willem Frederik Hermans

Beyond Sleep

A masterclass in the art of realist narrative

Beyond Sleep is the oppressive story, of young geologist Alfred Issendorf. Like all scientists, he dreams of fame and immortality. Along with a young geologist called Arne and two assistants, he sets off for the North Cape on a research trip, intending to prove that the region’s lakes were created by meteorites.

His ambition quickly overtakes his sense of reality, however, and the journey across the wide open landscape of Finnmark becomes increasingly hellish. Alfred can’t even keep up with the others. The midnight sun makes sleep impossible and mosquitoes torment him all day, flying into his mouth whenever he attempts to speak. The expedition ends in tragedy. First the two assistants leave, then Alfred becomes convinced they should take a different route and casually abandons Arne. When he realizes his mistake and returns, he finds Arne dead.

Beyond Sleep is an ingeniously structured novel in which Hermans uses bitter ridicule to dismantle all faith in progress.

His dark pessimism is not fatalistic, however, but rather a deeply personal and razor sharp analysis of human limitations.

Unquestionably one of the finest European novels of the post-war period and long overdue for wider appreciation.

Brian Morton - Sunday Herald

Beyond Sleep is an engaging yarn once it hits its strike, intermittently thought-provoking, frequently funny, well worth investigating.

Michel Faber - The Guardian

The language is dry; the socks are wet; the compass is lost. A masterpiece.

Roddy Doyle - Irish Times

Beyond Sleep, published in 1966, is a timeless philosophical treatise on the absurdity of human striving and scientific interpretation.

Die Tageszeitung


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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Nooit meer slapen (1966). Fiction, 265 pages.
Words: 87,000


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