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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

The Bookaholics' Guide to Book Blogs: "Mark Thwaite ... has a maverick, independent mind"

Wednesday 26 July 2006

Willem Frederik Hermans

Nice review of WF Hermans' Beyond Sleep (out from Harvill; who now, very kindly, seem to be sending books over to RSB again -- thank you!) by Michel Faber in the Guardian this last weekend:

Why has Willem Frederik Hermans's large and varied oeuvre failed, over half a century, to establish his place in the pantheon of Dutch writers recognised by the British? The author himself might have grinned ruefully at the thought: he was an arch-pessimist with a wry sense of humour. However, he suffered no shortage of acclaim, most of it from Germany, Scandinavia and his native Netherlands.

... Beyond Sleep is an engaging yarn once it hits its stride, intermittently thought-provoking, frequently funny, well worth investigating. But there are darker, stronger Hermans works still waiting for their chance to cross the Channel.

Toucing on Ina Rilke's translation, Faber notes:


In the original Dutch, Hermans's prose is bracingly lucid and straightforward, justifying his reputation as a champion of unadorned style. Ina Rilke's translation is fluent and finds clever solutions to tough challenges (such as preserving the comic effect of conversations in which English is the foreign language), but overall the tone is more formal, more prim than it should be. Occasionally, unintentional ambiguities are introduced, such as when Alfred steps "into the void" instead of stepping off a rock. Still, the protagonist's increasingly febrile determination is well conveyed, and the numerous humiliations of travelling ill-provisioned in a hostile landscape are detailed with satisfyingly grisly care.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Memorial Tablet

Squire nagged and bullied till I went to fight,
(Under Lord Derby’s Scheme). I died in hell—
(They called it Passchendaele). My wound was slight,
And I was hobbling back; and then a shell
Burst slick upon the duck-boards: so I fell
Into the bottomless mud, and lost the light.

At sermon-time, while Squire is in his pew,
He gives my gilded name a thoughtful stare:
For, though low down upon the list, I’m there;
‘In proud and glorious memory’... that’s my due.
Two bleeding years I fought in France, for Squire:
I suffered anguish that he’s never guessed.
Once I came home on leave: and then went west...
What greater glory could a man desire?

-- Siegfried Sassoon
Collected Poems (Faber and Faber)

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