Kader Abdolah


A masterpiece on the law of flight: literature as a bridge between two worlds

In 1988, Kader Abdolah fled from Iran and settled in the Netherlands. He had already written two novels and here he continued to write in a new language. This fact is worked in a surprising manner into his third novel, Spijkerschrift. The title refers to the indecipherable symbols in which the deaf, dumb and blind Aga Akbar has recorded his life’s story. This self-invented script can be seen as an attempt to find his own language in a country whose inhabitants are oppressed by the consecutive regimes of the Shah and Khomeni.

Aga’s son, Ismael, is no exception. He has fled to the Netherlands and comes into the possession of the manuscript, which he is determined to translate, in despite its illegibility. Just as in the past, he has to be the means through which his deaf and dumb father is understood. He is an extension of his father and of the history of his country, including its flaws, plus whatever he himself remembers, or imagines, which creates a wonderful chronicle. Ismael paints a penetrating and colourful picture of both his fatherland and of himself as a translator and writer. In that respect, he appears to have created a second homeland by writing himself into the literature of his new language.

Constantly jumping back and forth between the present day and the past, his book gradually spans a bridge between two worlds, which are both given a new tint by the strange intermediate position of Ismael. ‘I write my story in the language of the Dutch people, in other words in the language of poets and writers who are no longer with us (-). I do so because it is the law of flight.’ And it is in its very language that Spijkerschrift excels. As a foreigner, writing in a language foreign to him, Abdolah is extremely economical with his words and possesses a unique power of suggestion.

An inspired writer, who tells of both the magical illusion and the bitter reality of his country (…) an exile from Persia, who has become a great Dutch writer.

Jean Paul Bresser, Elsevier

A most convincing book by a writer who has earned himself a unique place in Dutch-language literature.

Desiree Schyns, Trouw

A beautifully woven tapestry of words.

Ingrid Hoogervorst, De Telegraaf


Kader Abdolah

Kader Abdolah (1954) belandde in 1988 als Iraanse vluchteling in Nederland. Al in 1993 debuteerde hij in het Nederlands met de bundel De adelaars over het leven in ballingschap. Met Spijkerschrift (2000) leverde Abdolah zijn meesterproef af, om met Het huis van de moskee (2005) zijn definitieve…

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Spijkerschrift (2000). Fictie, 377 pagina's.
Oplage: 20.000

Sample translation available


English (PDF document)


De Geus

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NL - 1017 XJ Amsterdam
Tel: +31 20 760 72 17

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