A.F.Th. van der Heijden

Advocaat van de hanen

A sublime evocation of a city, a period and a generation

A.F.Th van der Heijden’s books incorporate historical events and real locations. His main characters were born during the postwar period of reconstruction, as adults in an increasingly prosperous world they search for stimuli in an attempt to give form and content to their lives.

The universal quality of Van der Heijden’s prose makes him much more than the chronicler of a generation. His evocative descriptions, inspired versatility and ability to transform ordinary or shameful moments into sparkling literature combine to make him one of the Netherlands’ most eminent authors.

Advocaat van de hanen can be read as a novel in its own right. Set in mid-eighties Amsterdam, the book’s main character is the lawyer Ernst Quispel. His clients include a group of squatters, complete with the Mohican hairstyles of the day. Quispel is a binge drinker. An attentive and abstinent spouse for most of the year, he is afflicted by periods of compulsive heavy drinking. It is a form of ritual cleansing, atonement for his bland appearance and social success. In the age of the yuppie, pleasure has become tarnished. Quispel’s annual binges are an attempt to experience something of the rough side of life.

Life’s rough side suddenly confronts him in his work at a time when his marriage is on the rocks. Quispel is charged with investigating the case of a young squatter, Kiliaan Noppen, who has died under mysterious circumstances in a police cell. A national scandal brews and ultimately a police chief, the Mayor of Amsterdam and the Minister of Justice are forced to resign.

This conclusion is an expression of Van der Heijden’s dissatisfaction over the historical course of events surrounding the case of Hans Kok, the squatter who provided the model for Kiliaan Noppen. In reality the national and city govern-ments succeeded in largely hushing up Kok’s death. Advocaat van de hanen is a sublime evocation of a city, a period and a generation. In one book Van der Heijden has combined a chronicle, a thriller and a timeless novel.

This fourth part of the cycle De tandeloze tijd once again investigates the anonymous generation of the seventies and eighties - that sheltered, spoilt but turbulent group who squatted buildings, turned to drugs, and got bogged down in the new materialism. (…) Very occasionally one finds oneself wishing that a book would never end. A.F.Th. van der Heijden’s Advocaat van de hanen is one of these rare novels.

Karel Osstyn in De Standaard

The two kinds of writers present in Van der Heijden’s work, the realist and the builder of myths, merge in this sublime novel.

Rob Schouten in Trouw

He manages to describe Amsterdam as a metaphor for the world in which pace, aggression, and Dostojevski-like corrupt politics rule the day. Van der Heijden is a writer who etches our modern times.

Doeschka Meijsing in Elsevier

Like fireworks on a half rained-out summer night when suddenly a single rocket shoots up, momentarily hovers in the dark and then explodes in a pandemonium of sparks … till the whole sky is strewn with a rain of artificial radiance.

De Volkskrant


A.F.Th. van der Heijden

A.F.Th. van der Heijden (b. 1951) studied psychology and philosophy in Nijmegen, but after moving to Amsterdam he turned to writing. His first two books appeared under the pseudonym Patrizio Canaponi: the short-story collection Een gondel in de Herengracht (A Gondola in the Herengracht, 1978; Anton…

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Advocaat van de hanen (1990). Fictie, 573 pagina's.



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