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The Twin (2006)

by Gerbrand Bakker

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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8767118,992 (3.94)200
When his twin brother is killed in a car accident, Helmer is obliged to give up university to take over his brother’s role on the small family farm, resigning himself to spending the rest of his days "with his head under a cow." The novel begins thirty years later with Helmer moving his invalid father upstairs out of the way, so that he can redecorate the downstairs, finally making it his own. Then Riet, the woman who had once been engaged to marry Helmer’s twin, appears and asks if her troubled eighteen-year-old son could come live on the farm for a while. Ostensibly a novel about the countryside, The Twin ultimately poses difficult questions about solitude and the possibility of taking life into one’s own hands. It chronicles a way of life that has resisted modernity, a world culturally apart yet laden with familiar longing.… (more)
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English (42)  Dutch (24)  Danish (1)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (71)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
Gray, Cold, Bleak, Stoic, Sad. This describes the setting (Dutch Waterland) and the main characters and narrator. After the death of his identical twin, Helmer steps up to help his Father run the sheep and cow farm. He is miserable and still at it 35 years later as is father lays dying. Slowly his hopes and dreams start to reemerge as the novel cycles through a year on the bleak, flat, watery farm.

The writing style, which while well suited to the story and very atmospheric, moved a little too slowly. I didn't enjoy reading this book. How could anyone? But I'm glad I read it. It would be a fascinating novel to study in a class-- so much symbolism, subtle hints at "unspeakable" themes. I was left pondering it. ( )
  technodiabla | Jan 18, 2021 |
Al finalitzar aquesta novel•la he tingut una sensació de tristesa i melancolia.

Encara que la seva prosa sigui senzilla i clara, en Helmer és un personatge que té un punt de vista molt especial. No és una història on passin moltes coses, com altres que existeixen, però coneixem a fons la psicologia d'un home amb diferents cares i una veu única.

També és recomanable l'edició en català, que trobo molt ben feta i que conté una traducció impecable. Espero llegir més obres d'aquest autor en un futur no gaire llunyà. ( )
  essuniz | Jan 5, 2021 |
2011 (my failed review can be found in the LibraryThing post linked)
http://www.librarything.com/topic/104839#2623268 ( )
  dchaikin | Sep 26, 2020 |
The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker Now here's a book to get to grips with.
 
If you are American, did you know that books written in English are translated into American? words you may not be familiar with like "telephone box", "motor car", "nappy" are translated into words you may understand. If anyone was doing this in reverse I'd be insulted if anyone thought I was not intelligent enough to either grasp or lookup a word or two.
 
The downside to this, apart from the implied insult, is that Americans get feed a diet of books that are not true to their original context. I had kinda always thought that the whole idea of reading was to broaden our horizons, not to have wider horizons trammelled down to our naturally parochial view point.
 
In short I thought it was to broaden our minds not have broader stuff narrowed down to our local viewpoint.
 
So. For anyone who is not aware that the literary world extends into non-English languages you could start here. If you do, nothing in this book will be familiar, at least until someone does an American translation. It is translated from Dutch into English but it has not been "simplified".
 
You will be confronted by a man's inner thoughts and feelings since his twin brother drowns. In fact you could say that water is one of the main characters in this novel. Place names are all Dutch. But don't let that bother you, it doesn't matter if the village sounds like a disease a dog may get, the drift or current of this story will soon have you in its grip and it will sweep you along.
 
And time is spent on several different scales depending on who is the focus. We have young old and the seasons all sharing that same timeline but at different speeds.
 
There are a few strange things in this book like men getting in bed together without there being any sexual context at all, like none at all. A lot is unsaid but its 'unsaidness' is louder than if it had been spoken. This book was not written for us, it was written for the Dutch. 
 
The fact that we can read it feels more like a scent of a foreign land, not an exotic, tropical paradise but the pragmatic wetness and dryness that is so fundamental to anything to do with Holland.
 
A surprising ending but not a twist, more of a coming into the light in a wholly satisfying way.
 
I really enjoyed every moment of this book, it is both haunting and about loss and yearning.
 
p.s. I've just re-read this and feel I have to point at that I was not criticising Americans per se only their publishing industry :-)
 
 
  ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
Nederlandse origineel gelezen. Vreemd boek, als een dagboek, geschreven in een telegramstijl: iedere dag een verslag van dezelfde zaken, als het weer, de koeien,de schapen etc in kortaffe zinnetjes. De ik-persoon lijkt vooral niets te willen prijsgeven en alles moet je tussen de regels door zien te lezen. Aan het eind voel je je als lezer buitengesloten: waarom dit verhaal als je toch niets wil vertellen? De hoofdpersoon is niet erg sympathiek: hij verwijt zijn vader dat deze zijn leven verpest heeft, maar hij heeft zelf nooit iets ondernomen om er iets van te maken en doet dat eigenlijk nog niet nadat zijn vader gestorven is. ( )
  stef7sa | Jan 5, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
This is a novel of great brilliance and subtlety. It contains scenes of enveloping psychological force but is open-ended, its extraordinary last section suggesting that fulfilment of long-standing aspirations can arrive, unanticipated, in late middle-age. Human dramas are offset by landscape and animals feelingly delineated, and David Colmer's translation is distinguished by an exceptional (and crucial) ear for dialogue.
 
There are certain stories that both ask for and reward rereading, and not according to the Great Work of Art notion that demanding, ambitious works like Ulysses and Hamlet sustain multiple engagements over a lifetime. I mean instead that more modest, deceptively simple works tend to reveal their many smaller gems of wisdom and beauty on second, third and even 20th readings. Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead – her luminous novel about an old Kansas preacher’s relationship to his young son and to the changing world around them – and Ernest Hemingway’s Big Two-Hearted River – a pitch-perfect short story about a damaged young man’s effort at a restorative fishing trip in northern Michigan – come to mind.

Gerbrand Bakker’s debut novel, The Twin, while not as accomplished as either of these works, has a similar feel to it. The winner of the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is unapologetically slow-paced, patient in its revelations, almost ritualistic in its descriptions of quotidian things, melancholic and meditative in its narrative voice and capable, at its best moments, of bringing off remarkably moving and tense passages concerning a middle-aged Dutchman’s fraught relationship to his aged father, a relationship permanently and tragically forged in fracture by the accidental death of the Dutchman’s twin brother – the always preferred son – when they were teenagers.
 
But these men are so silent in the assessment of their own lives, and this is such a sad and bleak story, that no matter how delicate the touch and how subtle the undercurrents, it makes for a sad, bleak read.
 

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gerbrand Bakkerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Colmer, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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I've put Father upstairs.
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When his twin brother is killed in a car accident, Helmer is obliged to give up university to take over his brother’s role on the small family farm, resigning himself to spending the rest of his days "with his head under a cow." The novel begins thirty years later with Helmer moving his invalid father upstairs out of the way, so that he can redecorate the downstairs, finally making it his own. Then Riet, the woman who had once been engaged to marry Helmer’s twin, appears and asks if her troubled eighteen-year-old son could come live on the farm for a while. Ostensibly a novel about the countryside, The Twin ultimately poses difficult questions about solitude and the possibility of taking life into one’s own hands. It chronicles a way of life that has resisted modernity, a world culturally apart yet laden with familiar longing.

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Helmer doet zijn vader naar boven; het is tijd om schoon schip te maken. Hij haalt de woonkamer en de voormalige ouderlijke slaapkamer leeg, schildert de boel en koopt nieuwe spullen. Ooit had hij een tweelingbroer, Henk, de lieveling van zijn vader, degene die de boerderij zou overnemen. Maar van de ene op de ander dag werd Helmer tot zijn opvolger gebombardeerd, door vader uit de stad gehaald en onder de koeien gezet. In het drassige laagland, met alleen het snuiven van de koeien en het gemekker van de schapen die de stilte nu en dan doorbreken, verzorgt hij de dieren en zijn oude vader.
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Archipelago Books

3 editions of this book were published by Archipelago Books.

Editions: 0980033020, 1935744046, 0981987338

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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