- Opening programme 'Open landscape - open book'
Date: Tue 30 August Time: 06.00 pm Venue: National Centre for the Performing Arts
- Liu Zhenyun in conversation with Gerbrand Bakker
Date: Sat 3 September Time: 11.30 am Venue: BIBF
Life and work
Gerbrand Bakker (b. 1962) studied Dutch language and literature and worked as a subtitler for nature films before becoming a gardener. His previous books include an etymological dictionary for children and the juvenile novel Perenbomen bloeien wit (‘Pear Trees Bloom White’, 1999), which has been translated into German. Boven is het stil (‘It Is Silent Up There’), his first adult novel, appeared in 2006. This bestselling book has been awarded the IMPAC Literary Award for Best European Novel, is translated into many languages and will be made into a film. In 2009 he published Juni (June), followed in 2010 by De omweg (The Detour, 2010).
Boven is het stil
‘I’ve put father upstairs.’ So begins It’s Silent Up There by Gerbrand Bakker, winner of 2006’s prize for the most successful literary debut. The novel was also nominated for the Libris Literature Prize and has been through numerous reprints. Its success is not entirely surprising, since Bakker tells a classic story in a spare and relentless style against the backdrop of a timeless universe: life on a farm in a ‘slient’ and melancholy landscape. Fifty-five-year-old Helmer van Wonderen’s life came to a standstill in 1967, when his twin brother Henk (‘we were boys with one body’) was killed in a car crash and he had to break off his degree course in Dutch literature to help his father on the farm. Henk was the apple of his father’s eye, but now it is up to Helmer, the useless one, to save the family business. Helmer resolves his suffocating relationship with his father in the first line of the novel by putting his bedridden father upstairs, where he slowly dies. (‘I’m hungry,’ says the father. ‘I’m hungry sometimes too,’ I say.) The death of his father and the unexpected arrival on the farm of his twin brother’s unruly teenage son restore meaning to his life, if only in the sense that he realises he must face the world utterly alone.
Translation in Chinese
- Bakker, Gerbrand. [(Boven is het stil)] Chinese / translated from Dutch. Shanghai: Shanghai 99, 2011.