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Vallende ouders (1983)

by A.F.Th. van der Heijden

Series: De tandeloze tijd (1)

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260579,954 (3.74)9
Het dertigjarige hoofdpersonage ziet niet alleen zijn studie filosofie mislukken, maar ook zijn leven. Hij heeft geen toekomst, maar genoeg verleden om de verhalen, reëel en verzonnen, feit en fictie, anekdote en tragiek, fijnzinnigheid en grofheid, liefde en verraad, homoseksualiteit en impotentie, uitvoerig te beschrijven.… (more)
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This novel forms the first part of van der Heijden's long and still ongoing series of (semi-)autobiographical novels De tandeloze tijd ("Toothless time"). It opens in spring, 1976, with the author's fictional alter ego Albert Egberts approaching his 26th birthday and near the end of his time as a student in Nijmegen, and moves on to take him back to his parents' house in Geldrop (outside Eindhoven) to retrace the key events of his childhood that have defined his relationship with his parents and his closest friends, and in the process dig into the mystery of how we deal with the cruelty of fate's having thrown us into this nasty, irreversible sequence of birth and death. Through consuming alcohol, mainly, it seems...

The structure of the book is frustrating to deal with, because van der Heijden likes to tell us things "in the wrong order", so that we get many unintelligible teaser-references to a character or a situation before we are actually told about it. Albert's parents, who are obviously the most important characters in the book (and not only on the strength of the title — the various accidents that happen to them give the book its key image structure) don't appear until after 150 pages or so: up to that point he might as well be an orphan, and we have to sit through egregious amounts of student drunkenness before we get to the real social and narrative content. Of course, the drunkenness isn't just there for show, it tells us important things about who Albert is and what life was like in 1976, and van der Heijden is a good raconteur, but I'm sure we could have got there in half the time with someone else...

It wasn't necessarily meant as a period novel — it came out only a few years after the foreground story — but I found that aspect of it almost the most interesting, the very particular cultural environment of that generation born in the first few years after the war, moving from working-class poverty to the new world of perpetual students and subsidised artists (that wonderfully Dutch institution, the BKR...). Of course here it also has that quite specific stamp of the Dutch provinces "below the great rivers," and of Eindhoven in the days when the whole of life there still revolved around Philips and the Catholic Church (in that order). ( )
  thorold | Jul 27, 2020 |
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Voor Mirjam 'Minchen' Rotenstreich
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Het dertigjarige hoofdpersonage ziet niet alleen zijn studie filosofie mislukken, maar ook zijn leven. Hij heeft geen toekomst, maar genoeg verleden om de verhalen, reëel en verzonnen, feit en fictie, anekdote en tragiek, fijnzinnigheid en grofheid, liefde en verraad, homoseksualiteit en impotentie, uitvoerig te beschrijven.

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