Adriaan van Dis

The Walker

A powerful novel with a social conscience

Mr Mulder seems to all appearances to be a upstanding gentleman, gliding through life, impeccably dressed, aloof to the hustle and bustle of the world around him. Because of a sizeable inheritance he can afford to idle away his time, and so he leaves Holland for Paris, where he leads an anonymous, solitary existence. One night he witnesses a dramatic fire in a building occupied by illegal immigrants and transients. People throw themselves out of windows in blind panic, as the crowd below looks on helplessly.

From that day on Mulder finds himself with a new pet: a dog which survived the fire has adopted him. Mulder tries to shake him off, but the dog follows him everywhere. The dog seems to mirror the suppressed, instinctive side of Mulder’s personality: everything the man shies away from, the dog seeks out. The animal also has an infallible memory for the people he knew before, and he opens up a new world for Mulder.

In searching for the cause of the fire, Mulder encounters a motley group of characters, like the whisky-soaked priest Bruno, a onelegged beggar woman and a taciturn Chinese who is never without his pull-cart. Mulder also starts to develop warm feelings for Sri, a mysterious woman he wants to save from the life of an illegal immigrant with a fake passport. But she is less than thrilled by his offers of help. ‘I want to live my life without feeling guilty,’ she says. ‘Me too,’ he replies. ‘That’s why I want to help you.’ But all Mulder’s attempts to do the right thing come to naught.

He is a believer without a god, a man committed to the idea of ‘doing a little good’. But his ideals are no match for a city teeming with unrest and racial hatred, where riots in the banlieus are an ever-present threat to society. De wandelaar (The Walker) is a powerful, socially aware novel as well as an emotionally involving story of a loner who tries to give his life meaning in an ever more extreme world.

Adriaan van Dis is a master of self-effacement, and ironizes in a subtle manner the yearning to ‘do something’ about the suffering in the world. He has succeeded in writing a novel that rubs the reader’s nose in today’s news.

NRC Handelsblad

De wandelaar is a witness to powerlessness and anger, and yet also of empathy with the tormented metropolitan society in the Western world. algemeen dagblad A topical novel that poses urgent questions. The unity of time and place ensures that the narrative remains compact, while the pace and fluent style do the rest.


The fact that De wandelaar emerges as an invigorating reading experience is due to the deft style that is Van Dis’s trade mark. Smooth sentences, elegant and acute phrasing, apt characterization, it’s all there.

Brabants Dagblad


Adriaan van Dis

Adriaan van Dis (b. 1946) was raised in the Dutch town of Bergen along with his half-sisters, the children of parents with an Indonesian background, traumatised by war. He debuted in 1983 with the novella Nathan Sid. After making a name for himself as a travel writer with books such as Het beloofde

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De wandelaar (2007). Fiction, 224 pages.

Sample translation

English (PDF document)



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