I really hate mosquitoes.
how strange that this book has made such an impression on me the topic is not among my interests, there is not much going on and the protagonist is a bit of an insecure, self centred idiot still the descriptions of the norwegian landscape, the highly philosophical conversations between the characters and in general hermans style create a strangely gripping if desolate atmosphere.
F Hermans 1921 1995 is one of the most highly acclaimed post war Dutch writers The first two thirds or so of this novel is Kafkaesque A somewhat hapless young scientist, eager to prove that small circles of water in northern Norway were caused by meteors, joins up with three hardened and extremely strange scientists on a geological expedition He is hardly up to the task and stumbles from one mishap to another, all absurd and at times quite funny But Hermans seems to have a serious message in mind Our hero, who believes his significance as a human being can only be affirmed through a stunning scientific discovery, soon begins to learn about himself and his capacities of endurance He eventually comes to realize that what he is striving for will not win him scientific immortality I am building a cathedral of unknown proportions, and by the time it is finished I will be long dead and no one will ever know of my contribution p 119 Perhaps the most noteworthy parts of Beyond Sleep, at least to this reader, are the philosophical scientific observations and nice, brief comments about the nature of existence that dot the text A somewhat humorous example of the former is the following keep in mind that mosquitoes play a prominent role in this novel like so often in literature set in Scandinavia I often wonder whether people realise that they might be completely mistaken about their place in the scheme of things Remember that stuff about the first being last, the last first Who s to say we won t be welcomed into the afterlife by a host of mosquitoes Wielding the sceptre up on the big throne could be a virus the foot and mouth virus, say p 149 As an example of a comment on the absurd nature of our existence, here s a nice statement about how man can keep his self respect By doing his duty, the incomprehensible duty imposed on him by his incomprehensible existence in an incomprehensible world p 176 Yes on that and yes on much else in this book But two hundred pages of tramping through mosquito infested sub artic Norway was a bit much perhaps it was reminiscent of too many unpleasant moments I experienced growing up in Alaska Oh wow, this was really really boring.
I was kind of ashamed that I hadn t read a Dutch book this year, but also in general, I read very little books that are published in the Netherlands So I found a list made by a big Dutch newspaper with the 10 best Dutch books ever I had only read one book on that list and that was Het huis van de moskee and I really liked that one plus the list contained some other well known books that you have to read , so I thought let s try to read the books on this list Unfortunately I really can not not finish a book, especially when it s on a list like that, which means that apparently a lot of people think it is really good But I just really really don t see why Everything was so slow and nothing really happened and it made me fall a sleep every night after a few pages So halfway I decided to switch to the audio book, in the hope that that would make it a little less boring But even the audio book was very monotonous and my mind kept wandering off And it s not that it s badly written, but it s also not spectacular So when I was at about 70% of the book I started googling why you should read this book Unfortunately that also resulted in me finding out the big thing that happens in the end of the book, so even the most exciting thing that happens in this book was ruined for me And I still haven t found out why people think this is good.
So not a great pick to start to read classic Dutch books 2 stars Finished 29.
2018Genre novelRating C 20booksOfAutumnConclusion Dutch is my second language It is time I started 20 books by Dutch authors considered 20th C must reads.
F Hermans is the first one on the list.
What an incredibly good book this is It s extremely well written a truly great command of language.
I d read De donkere kamer van Damokles The Darkroom of Damocles , the book Willem Frederik Hermans is probably most famous for, a couple of years ago but Nooit meer slapen Beyond Sleep , published some eight years later, is far better in my opinion Nooit meer slapen tells the story of Alfred Issendorf, a 25 year old geologist who is going to the northern part of Norway, the land where the sun never sets during summer, to do research into the possible presence of meteorites and their craters The results of this research he intends to use in obtaining his doctorate He will be joining three Norwegian researchers while going to the inhabitable north.
Alfred s preparations for the actual expedition are not quite what one would expect, which made me wonder where the story would lead to Although the book is not thrilling or sensational in the ordinary sense, it managed to keep me spellbound till the very last page A truly marvellous story To be honest I m not a big fan of dutch literature, but I actually enjoyed this book Although the story started of slow, it slowly started to develop until I was really intrigued by the story line What made the book special in my opinion was the fact that everything you could think of was written down For example, when Alfred is walking 25 kilometers and starts to get tired, he counts his steps and is encouraging himself to continue his journey Every normal person does this at least I think so but to see it actually written down on paper shocked me a little Alfred s thoughts fly everywhere and I think Hermans did a great job by writing down all of them.
The plot itself was evenly surprising, I didn t expect a lot of things to happen and normally plots don t really surprise me because most of the time they are very predictable I rated the book 4 stars and not 5 because of the slow beginning, but if you re searching for some refreshing literature you should definitely read this Nooit meer slapen Is Het Verhaal Van De Jonge Nederlandse Geoloog Alfred Issendorf, Die In Het Barre, Moerassige Noorden Van Noorwegen Onderzoek Wil Verrichten Om De Hypothese Van Zijn Leermeester En Promotor Sibbelee Te StavenIssendorf Is Ambitieus Hij Koestert De Hoop Dat Hem Op Deze Reis Iets Groots Zal Wedervaren, Dat Zijn Naam Aan Een Belangrijk Wetenschappelijk Feit Verbonden Zal Worden Deze Ambitie Hangt Samen Met Het Verlangen Het Werk Van Zijn Vader, Die Door Een Ongeluk Tijdens Een Onderzoekstocht Om Het Leven Kwam, Te Voltooien Maar Ook Op Alfreds Expeditie Lijkt Een Doem Te RustenWillem Frederik Hermans Ontving In De Prijs Der Nederlandse Letteren Voor Zijn Gehele Oeuvre Willem Frederik Hermans is yet another excellent foreign writer it has taken anglo sphere publishers too long to translate Written over half a century ago, Beyond Sleep is set in a world before GPS and widespread communications, when it was all too easy to get lost Hermans depiction of the sheer physicality of tramping across arctic tundra, under relentless attack from mosquitoes and flies, with a heavy pack, inappropriate footwear and faulty equipment is harrowing The constant daylight erodes the protagonist s sense of time, reinforcing his sense of being lost in a place where even the geology is questionable But sometimes we must take a wrong turn in order to discover our true direction Despite being about losing one s way, of losing one s footing, Hermans narrative progresses with an even, sure pace and very tidily concludes with a real cosmic bang.