Nothing to Lose and Yet Afraid

An age-old problem of love is the fear that we could be left by the beloved. 'Nothing to Lose and Yet Afraid' is a memoir about the breakdown of a relationship and divorce, a classic in the Netherlands, in which fury, grief and fear were laid bare in Renate Rubinstein’s weekly newspaper columns.

Original title
Niets te verliezen en toch bang
Renate Rubinstein

‘Bugger. Man gone, cases packed, vanished. (…) House bloody dark at night. Not that the last months have been a bundle of fun, but still weird to open the door to any room and find no one there. Not even someone day-dreaming of another woman, or quickly cutting off the phone. Unbearable.’

So starts one of the most gripping ego-documents in Dutch literature. After ten years of marriage, Rubinstein’s husband told her that he was leaving her for another woman. Caught up in rage and disappointment, Rubinstein was unable to write on any subject other than her divorce, sharing her fury with her many readers. Her despair, bewilderment, gloom, all were reported with a directness and immediacy.

Years later, she filled out these spontaneous outpourings with more considered reflections on love and life to form Nothing to Lose and Yet Afraid. The book has never gone out of print since publication in the early 1990s. All can identify with its subject matter, and also with Renate Rubinstein herself who – in a style reminiscent of Joan Didion – wrote courageously, intelligently and honestly about her own drama in an original, lively and beautiful way, and without pathos.

Rubinstein wrote about divorce before Oprah Winfrey, before psychobabble and self-unburdening became an epidemic. She had to find the right language for what she was going through. Yet it isn’t just that supple, original language which does it, it is also her power to observe herself from within and without.


Renate Rubinstein was no writer, someone who thinks up a story and masters it. She was a seismograph, a commentator, constantly needing feeding by signals from outside. Television, newspapers, books, meetings, sickness, divorce, love: everything that she experienced could drive her to a piece.

De Volkskrant
Renate Rubinstein
Renate Rubinstein (1929-1990) was born in Germany but moved to the Netherlands in the 1930s. She wrote columns for a Dutch weekly for almost thirty years; her first collection of these columns in book form appeared in 1964.
Part ofNon-Fiction
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