The Friendship

A thirty-year-old psychologist-philosopher recoils from the indigestible and inaccessible language of academia. Instead of her dissertation she writes a letter to her bosom friend. Her studies concern everyone, not just an elite. ‘Writing is giving your mind another body,’ she writes, ‘so why shouldn’t that body be an attractive one?’ This twenty-page literary letter is the surprising conclusion of the three-part novel 'De vriendschap'.

Original title
De vriendschap
Connie Palmen

Three years after her internationally acclaimed best-seller De wetten (The Laws), Connie Palmen has once again created an attractive body with which to express her concerns. The first two hundred pages of De vriendschap tell the story of two women’s friendship. The book’s third and final section puts this friendship in a new light while also exposing how easy it is for a reader to be misled once the emotions are engaged. The writer sends the reader back to the beginning and first principles. Indeed, the whole book is a literary expression of philosophical thought, initially disguised as a story about two women, later becoming a straightforward letter. Can De vriendschap in its entirety be seen as a letter to the unknown reader?

Perceptively and precisely written (…), witty and compelling. It is sometimes said that the second book by an author who has been so praised for her first can only disappoint, this book vigorously rebuts that saying.


The story opens in a rural village in the sixties. Kit, the main character, talks about her friendship with Ara. Kit is small and skinny, and devours books. Ara is big, fat and dyslexic. The former has to read and think (and drink greedily) to acquire insight, the latter is led by her intuition (and eats greedily). For all Kit’s dependence, she never devotes herself completely to others. After all, that would be surrendering freedom of choice.

In her characteristically aphoristic style, Connie Palmen shows how, after much struggle and confusion, Kit finally realizes that body and mind, free choice and fate are inseparably linked. As are the two friends. And because of Palmen’s inimitable writing style, Kit’s studies are truly of general concern.

A brilliant novel of ideas with a surprising tone. Her secret lies in her way of combining literature with philosophy.

De Standaard

'De vriendschap' is a mercilessly philosophical book. There is nothing remotely like it.

Connie Palmen
Connie Palmen (b. 1955) studied Dutch and philosophy. She shot to fame with her first novel 'De wetten' (The Laws, 1991).
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