A Flight of Curlews
The film of Maarten ’t Hart’s most famous novel starred Jeroen Krabbé as Maarten, the shy, awkward biology professor. Maarten grows up, as did ’t Hart, in an austere Calvinist environment. His father represents a threat to the mute intimacy between him and his mother. Maarten’s exceptional intelligence exacerbates his isolation at school and he feels safe only when viewing the world from a distance.
He falls in love with Martha but does not dare talk to her and the failure of this love undermines his belief in God. Years later, in a scene no less comic than it is dramatic, two church elders urge his dying mother to repent and Maarten throws them out of the house. One of them lands in a ditch.
Shortly after this incident he meets Martha’s sister but becomes obsessed with the idea that he will die before they can go to a concert together. Melancholy, tenderness, suspense and lyrical descriptions of nature are the novel’s main ingredients.