On the Water
For Anton happiness is concrete, tangible, made of ‘flesh, muscles, sun and wood, water and stones’. His rowing training with his Jewish friend David on the River Amstel, which flows through Amsterdam, also offers him a chance to escape the pressures of his parents’ wishes and his social background. In the long summer of 1939, as the city and the continent anxiously anticipate war, Anton and David live only for rowing and the independence it brings.
They feel the harmony of their synchronized action, the delightful sensation of gliding across water.
Five years later, returning to his old rowing club in a city wrecked by war, Anton thinks back to that summer of 1939 and how he escaped from his working-class district to row with David, a wealthy Jewish grammar school boy. He remembers their friendship, which crossed all class barriers, their German trainer and their dreams of the Olympics. The war, deftly reconstructed, remains in the background, but David’s family house is empty.
Its style, subject matter and structure make On the Water a novel that has met with recognition in numerous countries.
Masterful in its lightness, it tackles heavy subjects like a talented rower cleaving the water.