December Books 22) Het Boek Van Alle Dingen / The Book of Everything, by Guus Kuijer
F had to do a report on this book for school, and invited me to read it too. It's quite a fascinating package, and very short at only 100 pages; Kuijer gives a very strong sense of a repressed Dutch society of the early 1950s, still coming to terms with the recent war and occupation (Thomas, the central character, is 9 so would have been born in 1942), combined with some startling magical realism as Thomas and the slightly sorcerous neighbour call down the plagues of Egypt on his wife-beating father. The line that sticks with me is from quite near the beginning (repeated again at the end) when Thomas first talks with the witch next door:
“Wat wil je later worden eigenlijk?” vroeg ze. “Gelukkig”, zei Thomas. “Ik word later gelukkig.”
“What do you want to be when you are older?” she asked. “Happy”, said Thomas. “I want to be happy.”
Anyway, definitely impressive enough for me to look out for more of Kuijer's work.