Due to a Tender Skin

A literary classic about love and the way we rebel against our own vulnerability

Few things are more affecting than a lonely twelve-year-old catching a girl’s eye and falling in love at first sight. Anton Koolhaas situates this story full of clumsiness and yearning for the future in a setting shaped by the past. The result is a confrontation the reader will never forget.

Fiction
Original title
Vanwege een tere huid
Author
Anton Koolhaas

Twelve-year-old Jokke sees Takkie, a girl his age, sitting in her window every day. He dreams of her – when she’s standing in front of him one day, he is dumb-founded. What follows is an outing in a canoe that fills to the brim with shyness and misunderstandings and yet doesn’t tip over. Koolhaas’ prose is always lyrical, but never pretentious. He puts the two young people under an early spring sun – without heat, but full of promise.

With the same loving detail, Koolhaas portrays the life of two hudnas – fictitious, beaver-like animals that live off the fish they ingeniously catch in a river delta further downstream. The two animals, Lussel and Twenna are their names, are very instinctive in everything they do, and all too human in their longing for warm Africa, where they were born. Koolhaas’ universe is characterised by gentle irony, great feeling and a sense of powerles-ness. There is no malice here, just regret and ineptitude. In the end, the storylines of the children and the animals converge, when Jokke ends up in the animals’ territory – with fatal consequences. Here, Koolhaas writes one of the most poignant lines in Dutch literature: ‘Very dead, if only just so.’ In Due to a Tender Skin, Koolhaas shows how a writer can use a seemingly small story to explore the major themes of human existence with remarkable subtlety.

Publishing details
Vanwege een tere huid (1973)
176 pages
33,000 words
200,000 copies sold

Publisher
Van Oorschot
Mark Pieters
Mark@vanoorschot.nl

Rights
Stella Rieck
Rieck@cossee.com

Translated titles (selection)
Dierenverhalen (Der dünne Pelz des Bären Burlót. Tiergeschichten): Germany (Luchterhand, 1996). De geluiden van de eerste dag (Die Stimmen des ersten Tages): Germany (Luchterhand, 1999).

Sample Translation

A writer with a bizarre imagination, highly versatile, with an irreverentirony and impressive restraint. Due to a Tender Skin is undoubtedly Koolhaas’ most accomplished book.

Het Parool

I discovered Koolhaas last year. I read Due to a Tender Skin, which turned out to be a forgotten masterpiece, a ten-out-of-ten.

Peter Buwalda

Perhaps I’m basing this too much on the immediacy of the emotions in this book, but I believe this is Koolhaas’ best work yet. His most affecting work, too. And most terrible – because, as he writes in this book, one’s first love is a gift from the devil.

de Volkskrant

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As well as animal stories, Anton Koolhaas (1912-1992) wrote novels and film scripts. He is the father of the famous architect Rem Koolhaas.
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