You are going on a trip and are only allowed to take one book with you

You are going on a trip and are only allowed to take one book with you

1. Jaap Kranenborg: The hazing of a first-year retiree

In The hazing of a first-year retiree former teacher and writer Jaap Kranenborg the history teacher Maarten enters the scene (although it is eighty percent autobiographical, said Kranenborg on Radio 5) who tells his father in a monologue how his first year as a retiree went: it started with a permanent holiday intoxication (with too much drinking) , but the vacancy of time was soon filled with activities such as ‘reading walking’ (‘After a chapter I continue walking’), counting birds, teaching Eritrean status holders and attending psychology lectures. Kranenborg links Maarten’s pension monologue to the life of his own father (‘I am going to look around for you in the Netherlands of today and that of the past’). Kranenborg is at his best in those personal stories about his father and his older brother Rogier, who lives with an advanced stage of Parkinson’s. Contemplative and engaging at the same time. The title may be a teaser for anyone who is retiring, but beyond the humor lies a serious storyteller who beautifully explains the ‘retirement paradox’: you now have loads of time, but at the same time you experience the feeling of scarcity because the last phase of life is not invisible is. Recommended, even for those who are not retiring.

Jaap Kranenborg: The hazing of a first-year retiree. Spectrum, 296 pages. €20.99

2. Italo Svevo: A life

The Trieste writer Italo Svevo (1861-1928) became world famous in 1923 with his third, great novel La coscienza di Zeno (Confessions of Zeno) in which the main character Zeno goes into psychoanalysis to quit smoking. That is his first, also psychological novel Una vita (1892) did not receive the same praise, was fortunately overtaken later and is now in its fourth edition A life published in translation by Frits Altvater. The young, shy Alfonso Nitti has come to work at Maller’s bank far from home and is feeling homesick. His dream is to return to the village he comes from as a rich man, but he does not get a quick promotion. Only at the soirees of the literary ‘Wednesday club’, at the bank manager’s home and especially at his daughter Annette’s, does he begin to feel more and more at ease. The dry way of describing the employees with calm and humor would be followed, for example, in the impressive seven-part novel cycle The desk by JJ Voskuil. Of course, it is not said that Voskuil has read this novel and the setting is different (Alfonso Nitti is a novice while Voskuil’s main character Maarten Koning was head of the department), but you can easily compare the office political language. When 22-year-old Alfonso falls in love with Annette (she suggested they write a book together and one thing led to another), his life spirals out of control and eventually becomes unbearable: ‘in the best of circumstances he would have suffered more than others in the most sorrowful’. Both James Joyce and one of the most important Italian poets of the time, Eugenio Montale, were among Svevo’s admirers and would contribute to his fame. Absolutely recommended, even if it is the stepping stone to the magnum opus.

Italo Svevo: A life (Una vita). Translation by Frits Altvater. Athenaeum, 406 pages. €20.

3. Wim Huijser: Going for a walk

Speaking of JJ Voskuil (1926-2008): writer and biographer (of C. Buddingh’) Wim Huijser has previously made an anthology of ‘walking fragments’ from the walks of Maarten Koning and his wife Nicolien, because ‘nowhere is there as much walking as in the work of JJ Voskuil’. Published in the now Going for a walk Huijser goes one step further: he revives Maarten and Nicolien thirty-three years later (Voskuil wrote about them until 1989) and they take walks in which we can recognize the reflections and annoyances of both spouses. Of course, paths or avenues are ‘weenies’ again and can be ‘sick’, but pushed forward in their time they are now also reacting against ‘hordes of flip-flops’ with which the emerging walking tourism manifests itself. Maarten and Nicolien also have to believe in the new technology; where Maarten is in The desk were still introduced to the first tape recorder, they now decide to buy a laptop and mobile phone together. If they don’t know where to walk, they open the ‘Hiking search page’, but Nicolien doesn’t really like that: ‘We have a cupboard full of walking guides. And surely you can come up with a round yourself?’ Huijser, himself a writer of hiking guides, just like Voskuil, hides beautiful double meanings in the conversations (for example, he gives friendly sneers to his fellow hiking writers). He goes the furthest when he has Maarten and Nicolien assess Voskuil’s work (‘For all I care, you call it office prose, but it is credible’). And when Maarten also says that he feels ‘one hundred percent at home in the dialogues between the two main characters’, that is where Huijser’s talent comes together; no one can match Voskuil, but letting the characters walk along with a display of knowledge and a sense of understatement is also an art.

Wim Huijser: Going for a walk. Noordboek, 200 pages. € 16.90

4. Stine Jensen: The reward

Since being a writer and columnist Stine Jensen After leaving science about seven years ago (‘I had a lack of oxygen at university, I found myself in a performance environment where only the best make it to the top’), there has been more peace and balance in her system. What certainly helps with this are the walks with her twin sister on Texel; they take the same walk every season. In The reward, published in the literary walking series Terloops in which writers ‘take you on their favorite walk’, she infectiously describes the walk of 6 kilometers that always ends with coffee and apple pie – the reward. Along the way she ‘borrows’ other people’s eyes, for example those of educational biologist Pierre Bonnet who walks with them to get a ‘feel for the ground’, or she philosophizes about thoughts of (northern) writers such as Tove Jansson about the lightness of existence or how heavy stories can be. But above all, she emphasizes how pleasant it is to walk in the company of your twin sister because you can then remain silent, complain or be annoyed with each other: ‘Of all the people in the world, she is the one with whom I least have to pretend to be different. ‘. If you plan to take this walk yourself, read this beautiful book first.

Stine Jensen: The reward. A walk. Van Oorschot, 64 pages 12.50

5. Franco Michieli: How paths find hikers

We continue walking, but now in an almost spiritual way; the geographer, natural explorer and writer Franco Michieli has years of experience with (alone) hiking and skiing in the mountains. In 1998 he started doing that without maps and navigation equipment to see what the nature around him was like. In How paths find hikers, originally written in 2015, Michieli and a friend take on the challenge of crossing Lapland in a month without any aid – so no watch, phone, GPS or otherwise. On their specially made wooden skis, they let themselves be guided by nature, remembering the Norwegian Fridtjof Nansen, who surrendered his ship Fram (‘forward’) to the movements of the ice during his expedition to the North Pole. The word ‘Fram’ is also written on the tip of Michieli and his friend’s skis to bring them good luck moving forward over the slopes. Michieli explains the conditions attached to such a journey: you must rely on the sun (even if it is sometimes not there) and the wind, you must have the map of the area meticulously memorized in your head – all the rivers, lakes, crevices, height differences and more – and you shouldn’t be afraid of getting lost. When you reach the place you hoped to find, the sense of wonder and joy is many times greater than following the beaten path with a map or GPS. Inviting, but also unimaginable.

Franco Michieli: How paths find walkers. The pleasure of getting lost. (La vocazione di perdersi). Translation Philip Super. World Library, 112 pages. € 18.99

6. Stephen Graham: The hiker’s happiness

‘It is a noble art; know how to walk and you know how to live. Manners make the man, and walking makes the manners. These are the first sentences from the book published in 1926 The hiker’s happiness from the British journalist and writer Stephen Graham (1884-1975), who as a ‘young man’, inspired by Dostoyevsky, was attracted to the ‘ordinary Russian man’. In the foreword, Mathijs Deen writes how Graham left London in 1908 and went in search of that common man. He crossed the entire Caucasus, walking 1,250 kilometers from Arkhangelsk to Moscow and along the Black Sea coast to Constantinople. The stories are above all very practical and very witty; about shoes, correct the great importance of maps and what to do if you are soaked to the bone (‘There must be a big fire with blazing flames that will actually dry you up. It can work, because it must not fail’). Furthermore, you are only allowed to take one book with you otherwise the duffel bag will be too heavy. Some titles immediately follow: for ‘the walker who continues to develop morally’, he recommends Peer Gynt by Hendrik Ibsen (‘You can read it ten times and still not fully understand the poetry and ideas contained in it. It is a wonderful book of life’). Beautifully published and definitely recommended.

Stephen Graham: The Happiness of the Walker. (The Gentle Art of Tramping). Translation by Paul van der Lecq. Uitgeverij Oevers, 238 pages. €21.




BOOK