Men who suddenly start talking about their feelings

Men who suddenly start talking about their feelings

1. Ines Nijs: The return flight

Aviator Victor Heyligens flies for Sabena on the Congo route between Brussels and Leopoldville. He still has a while until retirement, but after thirty years the management points out his ‘rebelliousness that would make him dangerous’. And indeed he is idiosyncratic: he ignores instructions from the control tower, kills a marabou stork and manages to end up next to the runway. A pilot on the decline? The Flemish writer Ines Nijs makes in the novel The return flight a more elaborate script than that. Maybe too extensive. Because wouldn’t a pilot who loses his balance due to the rapid evolution in aviation, feels the youngsters breathing down his neck and the emptiness he fears after retirement, make for an exciting enough book? Nijs, who works alternately in Belgium and Senegal, expands the plot with illegal trade in African art in which Victor is involved and his marital problems due to alleged adultery even get the upper hand. As if that weren’t enough, there are also colleagues who whisper suspicions about him in a Poch-like manner (‘Is it true that you flew a war mission for the RAF that went wrong?’). It’s a lot, even for a novel – unless that’s what a pilot’s life could really be like. Then is The return flight a very successful novel.

Ines Nijs: The return flight. Davidsfonds, 272 pages. € 22.50

2. Matt Cain: The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle

Also at the end of his career is the amiable postman Albert Entwistle, who never dared to say that he was homosexual at work or among friends. As a teenager, he was caught with his boyfriend in the woods by his authoritarian father, a police officer, who threatened to arrest the boyfriend. Fifty years later, Albert goes in search of this childhood sweetheart who, in response to the bullying that started at school, has started to behave more and more extravagantly. The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle was written by the British writer and television maker Matt Cain. A moving coming out from a man over 60 about his youth and adolescence, but there is much more to it. Especially the conversations he has after it is known that he is attracted to men are written in a balanced manner. For example, his colleagues were no longer used to communicating with him at all because Albert had kept them at a distance for so long. Or the effect was that other men suddenly started talking about their feelings. However, things never worked out with his parents. The common thread is the search for the friend: whether and how he finds him remains uncertain for a long time.

Matt Cain: The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle. (The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle) Translation Vanja Walsmit. De Fontein, 368 pages. € 20.00

3.James Worthy: Liverpool

The Dutch writer, journalist and columnist James Worthy (pseudonym of James Patrick Pugh) wrote with Liverpool a small, beautiful requiem for his father. Born in Liverpool in 1949, ‘Chugga’ Pugh left the Beatles city at a young age and came to Amsterdam as a sailor, married a Jordanian and set up his own welding and construction company in the port of Amsterdam-Noord. ‘He left everything behind to find another everything’ or ‘he left here and never came back’: these are, at first glance, mini-clichés that characterize Worthy’s style, but which gradually develop into direct safety nets for love to reinforce his father: ‘My father was the man who was always there, until he was no longer there’. Father and son need few words but talked about everything. That it is also football that connects them – they went to matches together their club, sometimes even just because Dick Jol refereed the match – is of course evident from the title. Each chapter is dedicated to one of the players from Liverpool’s star team that won the Champions League final on penalties against AC Milan in 2005. Absolutely recommended.

James Worthy: Liverpool. About a city, a club & a father. Thomas Rap, 192 pages. € 21.99

4. Robbie Waisman & Susan McClelland: The boy from Buchenwald

At the end of the Second World War, the OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants), the agency that rescued Jewish children during the war, received a telegram from the commander of the American troops who had liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp: ‘I have a thousand Jewish children in Buchenwald found. Take immediate action by evacuating them.” It took the OSE just over two months to bring 472 boys, including the then sixteen-year-old, later Nobel Peace Prize winner (1986) Elie Wiesel and Romek Wajsman, from Buchenwald to France. About this Jewish-Polish woman Romek Wajsman (1931) goes The boy from Buchenwald in which the Canadian journalist Susan McClelland makes a clever connection between the war memories and the time of Wajsman’s personal reconstruction. They were very traumatized boys who had to build a new life despite their distrust, suspicion and hidden sadness (“They have robbed us of our humanity”). The book emphasizes, and this makes it different from other books about the war, how Jewish scientists, artists and the (psychological) caregivers in the shelters helped the children. What also helped the Buchenwald boys, as they were called, was that they received a personal mentor and a ‘buddy’ who guided them in social development. At the age of seventeen, Wajsman emigrated to Canada, where he changed his name to Robbie Waisman. He didn’t talk about the war, but when an Alberta teacher, James Keegstra, told his students in 1984 that the Holocaust would not have existed, the words burned his lips. Since that year, Waisman has started testifying publicly. Very impressive.

Robbie Waisman & Susan McClelland: The boy from Buchenwald (The Boy from Buchenwald) Translation Gerard Suurmeijer. Library, 304 pages. € 20.99

5. Jos Kessels: The musician’s riddle

In the philosophical novella The musician’s riddle by Jos Kessels the first person is apprenticed to the great connoisseur of beadwork. This musician, who moves his hands energetically while he orates (“He played his aerial ladders with fingers like fluttering wings”), invites the first person to be his opponent at his home for a few weeks to learn the finer points of the game. That is to say, he asks him questions, many questions, to arrive at an unexpectedly clear insight for the first person. The bead game really exists and is used in coaching people and companies. The ten beads are constructed as the tetractys (from Pythagoras) which consists of four rows starting with four and increasing to one bead. The game cannot be explained in a few lines, but it boils down to the skilled player asking the participant(s) questions along the four rows (4. the facts, 3. the person’s feelings, 2. the margin of the playing field, 1. the idea). The goal is that ‘the idea’ arises through your own insight. In the novella, the intervention of the hostess who makes small talk for the first person is ‘a relief for all his memories’. They are light interludes between the dialogues in which Kessels opens up all linguistic registers. As a reader you don’t want to miss anything, but that also requires some practice. The book will be published this Friday, March 25 The musician’s riddle presented at the ISVM in Leusden (2.30 pm) and Kessels himself explains the origins of the book. Philosopher and bead expert Kessels previously wrote about the background of the game in, for example Playing with ideas. The art of philosophical conversation.

Jos Kessels: The riddle of the musician. ISVW Publishers, 163 pages. € 19.95

6. Marjolijn Uitzinger: The dark sides of the family behind BMW

Journalist Marjolijn Uitzinger writes both non-fiction and crime novels. In the well documented The dark sides of the family behind BMW she highlights the scandals in which the (descendants of the) German entrepreneurial family Quandt became embroiled. In 2007, a television documentary revealed the family’s Nazi past: exploitation and forced labor and contacts with Hitler’s circles. Prisoners from the Dachau concentration camp were also deployed at BMW, where magnate Herbert Quandt (1910-1982) held sway after the war. Things did not remain quiet in 2007, because Herbert’s daughter, Suzanne Klatten (1962), was extorted in the same year by the Swiss gigolo Helg Sgarbi with whom she had had an affair. It later turned out that she, like other wealthy women, had fallen for his game of flirting and stealing. When he threatened to blackmail her with nude photos, she went to the police. Many stories are already well-known in themselves, but bringing together these billionaire lives produces a grim family portrait in which business power easily trumps any form of morality. The chapter ‘The Quandts now’, which only consists of less than five pages, proves that the family would like to leave the past behind them. Not much more can be said about Suzanne Latten (1962) and her brother Stefan Quandt (1966) other than that they paid themselves a dividend in times of corona so that they could also pay the employees a bonus. Stefan shuns publicity and shields his family. And also the ‘news’ that Suzanne divorced Jan Klatten in June 2018. But that is difficult to call ‘dark’.

Marjolijn Uitzinger: The silent billionaires. The dark sides of the family behind BMW. De Geus, 256 pages. € 21.50