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Knielen op een bed violen by Jan Siebelink
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Knielen op een bed violen

by Jan Siebelink

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Ik heb het net uit. Wat een verhaal. Heeft een hele diepe indruk op mij gemaakt. Af en toe de koude rillingen door eigen vrij recentelijke herinneringen aan een "vorig" leven. Die bizarre overeenkomsten maken het voor mij een erg persoonlijk boek waar ik nog wel even ondersteboven van zal blijven. Ik kan alleen maar zeggen dat het geheel onvoorstelbaar knap verwoord is door Jan Siebelink.
  HansWildschut | Apr 27, 2014 |
Up until the publication of Knielen op een bed violen(2005) the Dutch author Jan Siebelink was relatively unknown, even in the Netherlands. Knielen op een bed violen has proved to be his opus magnum, which became a bestseller, and kindled interest in all his other work. The novel is very well-written and presents a very compelling story. This story is the biography of the author's father. Chronologically, the events in Knielen op een bed violen precede the story in the novel Engelen van het duister, which was published in 2001, and in which the two sons have different names. Another novel by Siebelink based on the same material, De kwekerij was published in 2007.

The novel is structured in two books, together seven parts, each part describing an episode in the life of the main character, Hans Sievez. The episodes are separated by intervals of about seven years, youth, apprenticeship, early marriage, etc. The story is set in the early to mid-twentieth century, somewhere between the 1920s and the 1960s; the Second World War, is only marginally referred to.

The beginning of the story shows how the young Hans runs away from home, to get away from under the suffocating religious sphere and his tyrannical father. During his apprenticeship in the Hague, he first meets Joseph Mieras, who is trying to convert him to Christianity, particularly of the same ultra-conservative denomination as that to which his father belonged. He is barely able to get rid of this person, but ultimately succeeds. The next episode described his marriage with Margje, the birth of two sons, and the difficulties of running the family business of a truck farm. After the war, Mieras gets back in touch, and converts Hans to the faith, drawing him further and further into it, and the story relates the growing tensions this causes in the family. Following a crisis, Hans severs all contacts with the group, which are however restored on his deathbed, causing more grievance and misery to his family.

The ultra-conservative religious sect, which pesters Hans Sievez consists of conservative Protestants, or Calvinists, inhabiting the so-called Dutch Bible Belt. Throughout the story, they stick to him like leeches.

The author uses some very compelling imagery to convey central motives to the story. In the first episode, Hans' pet rabbit is killed by his father. His "impotence" to protect his mother, and his sentimentality for the rabbit foreshadow his life-long inability to stand up for himself. In various episodes, throughout his life Hans is exploited and humiliated.

The pervading images describing the Calvinist preachers are dirt, ugliness and disgust. Their clothes, shoes, suitcase etc, are always dirty, mud bespattered, torn, and the books they sell Hans are all torn, missing pages, smelly and stained; They are all ugly, ugly faces, spittle in corners of the mouth, odd swellings in the neck, thin, unhygienic or otherwise disgusting, and their behaviour is always described as strange, yelling, waving arms, whispering. They always congregate in secret, ill-lit places, shadowy corners of the garden, sneaking in and out by creeping through the hedge. They are all dressed in black, none of them works or has a regular income, and they are all described as lazy parasites.

It is quite remarkable that a novel set in this fanatic, fundamentalist religious environment can attract such wide readership. I suppose it is the author's consistent unsympathetic description of the preachers, which makes the book palatable to the general reader.

While generally I am not a fan of stories and authors with this type of Calvinist background, the story is very compelling, and the novel is very well-written. A great work of literature. ( )
1 vote edwinbcn | Feb 18, 2012 |
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...en had de liefde niet...
1 Cor. 13
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Voor Kaj, Hanne, Teun, Alama
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Wie vanuit het oosten komt, van bij de Duitse grens, ziet ten slotte, over het onafzienbare veen, een grijze streep aan de horizon, en voor wie de eerste keer die weg aflegt en de rivier wil oversteken, denkt dat hij voetveer en Veluwezoom al nadert.
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