Henk van Woerden - Ultramarine
Ultramarine is a scintillating portrayal of the eastern Mediterranean in the second half of the twentieth century. Like Orhan Pamuk, and perhaps even more, Van Woerden shows how unquestioning imitation of western customs leads to the degeneration of indigenous cultures. Ultramarine is a novel of searing melancholy, expressed in the sensitive, sensual language characteristic of Van Woerden’s work.
The story is set in the borderlands between east and west. Joakim grows up in an obscure port on the eastern seaboard of the Mediterranean in the 1950s. A passionate relationship develops between him and his half-sister Aysel, a flamboyant and self-possessed young woman. When the fruit of their love and their consequent disgrace threaten to become public knowledge, they are forced to part. Aysel is sent overseas, banished to the suburbs of a bleak German city ‘to be forgotten among strangers’. Joakim is left behind. He will search for Aysel’s spirit for the rest of his days.
Born in The Netherlands but spending his teenage years in South Africa, Van Woerden wrote about exile, disintegration and absence. His recent death marks the loss of a wise, cosmopolitan writer of great international stature.
Henk van Woerden (1947-2005) grew up in Leiden and moved to Cape Town, South Africa, at the age of ten. From 1965 to 1967 he studied at the School of Fine Arts in Cape Town, before returning to Europe in May 1968. His prose debut Moenie kyk nie (1993) received the Geertjan Lubberhuizen Award for best literary prose debut. A Mouthful of Glass, the third book in his South Africa trilogy, was published in 1998.
- ‘Van Woerden has written a European novel as envisioned by Kundera: grand, melancholy yet vital, multi-voiced and socially engaged.’ – De Standaard
- ‘Few writers have described so convincingly the uprootedness, alienation, and inner turmoil of those who leave their own country.’ - de Volkskrant