notes on dutch literature

Posts Tagged ‘AKO Prize’

While the Gods Were Sleeping shortlisted for Independent Foreign Fiction Prize

In Awards, Masters on April 11, 2015 at 5:39 PM

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The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize was inaugurated by British newspaper The Independent to honour contemporary fiction in translation in the United Kingdom. This year eminent Dutch-language Belgian author Erwin Mortier’s While the Gods Were Sleeping is one of the contenders, joined by literary giant Haruki Murakami, German authors Jenny Erpenbeck and Daniel Kehlmann, Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel from Equatorial Guinea and Colombian Tomás González. The winner will be presented with the prize at the Royal Institute of British Architects on 27 May.

Helena’s mother always said she was a born poetess. It was not a compliment. Now an old woman, Helena looks back on her life and tries to capture the past, filling notebook after notebook with memories of her respectable, rigid upbringing, her unyielding mother, her loyal father, her golden-haired brother. She remembers how, at their uncle’s country house in the summer of 1914, their stately bourgeois life of good manners, white linen and afternoon tea collapsed into ruins. And how, with war, came a kind of liberation amidst the mud and rubble and the appearance of a young English photographer who transformed her existence.

Lyrical and tender, filled with images of blazing intensity, While the Gods Were Sleeping asks how it is possible to record the dislocation of war; to describe the indescribable. It is a breathtaking novel about the act of remembering, how the past seeps into our lives and how those we have lost leave their trace in the present.

While the Gods Were Sleeping was translated by acclaimed translator Paul Vincent and published by Pushkin Press.

Erwin Mortier made his mark in 1999 with his debut novel Marcel, which was awarded several prizes in Belgium and the Netherlands, and received acclaim throughout Europe. While the Gods were Sleeping received the AKO Literature Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the Netherlands.

Paul Vincent taught Dutch at the University of London for over twenty years before becoming a full-time translator. He has translated a wide variety of literature from Dutch, including Louis Couperus’s Inevitable and the Hidden Force as well as J.J. Slauerhoff’s The Forbidden Kingdom for Pushkin Press. In 2012 he was awarded the Vondel Translation Prize.

The Guard – Peter Terrin

In Review on December 10, 2012 at 8:46 AM

Peter Terrin
Harry and Michel live in the basement of a luxury apartment block, guarding the inhabitants. No-one goes outside. The world might be at war – it might even have been plunged into nuclear winter. No-one knows. All Harry and Michel know is that if they are vigilant, ‘the Organization’ will reward them: promotion to an elite cadre of security officers remains their shining goal. But what if there were no-one left to guard? And if the promised relief shift arrives, how will they fit in to Michel and Harry’s studied routine of boredom and paranoia?

The Guard by Flemish writer Peter Terrin, was translated by David Colmer and published by MacLehose Press. The Guard won the European Prize for Literture. He was nominated for major literary awards several times, including the AKO Literature Prize and the Libris Literature Prize. He recently won the AKO Literature Prize this year for his most recent novel Post Mortem.

Peter Terrin represents a unique voice in contemporary Dutch-language literature, touching on universal and highly topical themes alike. Terrin, who has been described as ‘a master of ominous detail’, is considered by critics to be a literary maverick, a classic writer who doesn’t follow trends, and a masterful stylist.

‘There’s a cold and beautiful precision to Peter Terrin’s writing, and a remorselessness and finally terrifying accretion of detail that begins by seeming fussy and ends by being unsettling’ SFX.

The Guard is so good, its world so minutely described and Michel so undeniably compelling that to suggest anything other than to pick this up and read it immediately would be to do it a disservice’ SciFi Now.

It’s not a lengthy book, but whereas some genre writers would have a field-day in providing a novella around this brilliant situation, Terrin keeps us there for the longer haul, and successfully fleshes out his creation to a full-length novel that has much more in common with Pinter – a relentless masculinity, a wilful drive through the darker side of life, and a gripping sense of control over its audience. While we are isolated in just one fraction of a rarefied, seemingly apocalyptic world, and we cannot be sure what the two characters have full control over, the reader is with Terrin to the end, making this one of the more intriguing variants of the thriller you will come across this year. The Book Bag

Peter Terrin will be one of the six writers touring to six UK cities during the High Impact literary festival, January 14th – January 19th 2013.

Darwin’s Dreampond

In Non-Fiction on December 4, 2012 at 1:49 PM

Darwins Dreampond
Darwin’s Dreampond by Tijs Goldschmidt is the story of a Dutch fish taxonomist who happened to be working in Tanzania when the colorful cichlids he was classifying were overfished to extinction. It stands head and shoulders above the predictable genre of eco-gloomies, and is in large part a work of literature. It originally appeared in Dutch in 1994 and was shortlisted for the major AKO Literature Prize and was awarded the prestigious Science Prize from the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research.

In 1981 Goldschmidt left for Tanzania in order to carry out research on cichlids, small percoid fish that form new species at an extraordinarily high rate and thus comprise one of the world’s most spectacular flocks of species. During his research the biologist was eye witness to a terrible destruction of fauna when an introduced army of Nile perch rapidly exterminated a large number of the hundreds of cichlid species. Goldschmidt ingeniously interweaves the story of the collapse of the ecosystem of Lake Victoria with a discussion of Darwin’s theory of evolution and his own experiences as a researcher amongst bureaucrats, missionaries and fishermen. The ecosystem collapses but the fishery booms and the lives of millions of Africans are drastically altered.

The biological story itself is fascinating, and Mr. Goldschmidt tells it well. But the genius of his book lies in the way he has combined the science with travel writing. He interleaves the two in a highly readable way, so that his Tanzanian experiences lighten the science.

Read the New York Times review of Darwin’s Dreampond.

During the London Book Fair 2012 Athenaeum Publishers have sold the World-English rights of a collection of over 20 essays by Tijs Goldschmidt. American publisher Seven Stories Press will publish the essays next year.

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In Pick of the Week on November 18, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Jewish Messiah - Arnon Grunberg

Prolific Dutch novelist Arnon Grunberg was born in Amsterdam in 1971, lives and works in New York City. He was kicked out of school at seventeen and started his own publishing company, specializing in non-Aryan German literature, at the age of nineteen. His first novel, Blue Mondays, written at the age of twenty-three, became a bestseller in Europe, won the Anton Wachter Prize. His second novel, Silent Extras was similarly successful, and Phantom Pain, his third, won the Dutch AKO Prize. He won he Flemish Golden Owl Award for Tirza (2006). Writing under the name Marek van der Jagt, Grunberg published The History of My Baldness, which won him the Anton Wachter Prize for the second time, a prize for the best debut novel of the last two years. He is the only novelist in the history of this prize to have won it twice. Other work published under the pseudonym Van der Jagt are Gstaad 95-98 (2002), as well as the essay Monogaam (Monogamous, 2004). Grunberg also writes plays, essays and travel columns.

Donna Seaman, LA Times wrote about The Jewish Messiah (2008): Grunberg is a master of stealthy wit, land mine-like understatement, whiplash dialogue and lacerating social commentary. Every character is brought to excruciatingly vivid life in sharply etched if ludicrous scenes of menace, subterfuge, grotesque psychosis and diabolical cruelty. Each shrewdly constructed and unnerving encounter is designed to expose hypocrisy, guilt, pain, ignorance and unreason, the chemistry of inhumanity. While Grunberg’s absurdist parody is devilishly clever and robustly ironic, it is too grim and freighted for laugh-out-loud humor.

His latest novel, The Man Without Illness was recently published in the Netherlands. The novel is not yet available in translation, but an excerpt of The Man Without Illness can be found here.

Arnon Grunberg is one of the few writers whose most novels are available in English (translations by Sam Garrett and Arnold & Erica Pomerans) Blue Mondays (1997), Silent Extras (2001), Phantom Pain (2004), The Jewish Messiah (2008). For a complete overview of novels, stories and essays by Arnon Grunberg: www.arnongrunberg.com

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