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An Untouched House (Paperback)
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“Profoundly unsettling . . . haunt[s] the mind for long afterwards.” —The Sunday Times
“The kind of book that stays with you forever.” —The Guardian
“Hugely entertaining." —The Scotsman
A Sunday Times Book of the Year: A brooding meditation on violence set during World War II—from a classic Dutch writer who has drawn comparisons to Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut
In this mesmerizing, dark meditation on the legacy of war, an interloper and opportunist makes a grand house of his own in the chaos of a war-torn countryside—only to find himself involved with occupying forces and enraged locals.
About the Author
Willem Frederik Hermans (1921-1995) was one of the most prolific and versatile Dutch authors of the twentieth century. He wrote essays, scientific studies, short stories, and poems, but was best known for several novels, the most famous of which are De tranen der acacias (The Tears of the Acacias, 1949), De donkere kamer can Domecles (The Darkroom of Damocles, 1958), and Nooit meer sleepen (Beyond Sleep, 1966).
David Colmer is a writer and translator. He translates Dutch literature in a wide range of genres including literary fiction, nonfiction, children's books, and poetry. He is a four-time winner of the David Reid Poetry Translation Prize, and received the 2009 Biennial NSW Premier and PEN Translation Prize. His translation of Gerbrand Bakker's The Twin (Archipelago) was awarded the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and he received—along with Gerbrand Bakker—the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for Bakker's novel The Detour.
One of Ian McEwan’s “most underrated books”
"Two contrasting energies galvanize Hermans’s fictions. The wry invitation to find symbols and deeper meanings is balanced by a wealth of detail and meticulously described action, all rapidly delivered, convincingly concrete, and psychologically persuasive . . . Hermans knows life intimately and that his knowledge is devastating."
—Tim Parks, New York Review of Books
"What’s most interesting, and what connects this novel with [Hermans's] others set in wartime—A Guardian Angel Recalls and The Darkroom of Damocles—are questions of identity, authenticity, and duplicity. As these novels chart the ways in which warfare can deform and degrade us, they measure the gap between their characters’ true inner selves and the false identities they assume: the roles they play and the lies they tell. And all three books monitor the terrifying ease with which that gap can narrow."
—Francine Prose, Harper's
"Profoundly unsettling . . . haunt[s] the mind for long afterwards."
—The Sunday Times, A Book of the Year
"Those who do simply open and read will find themselves immersed in a nightmare miniature where philosophical musing gives seamless way to beautiful but unyielding cruelty . . . this newer translation by David Colmer seems to better capture the unsettling horror."
—Ben Murphy, Full Stop
"Although An Untouched House is brief, it is worth pacing oneself and absorbing its remarkable density. Hermans’ is the architect of a masterful story—concise but expansive in vision...a lucid, exhilarating account."
—Peyton Harvey, Zyzzyva
"Hermans’s novella is a bleak depiction of the absurdity of war, which knows no winners."
—Felix Haas, World Literature Today
"A shocking Dutch classic . . . remarkable . . . It takes an hour or two to read, but An Untouched House is the kind of book that stays with you forever."
"From the opening pages, the translator David Colmer brilliantly evokes the laconic tone of a narrator who proves intelligent, resourceful and increasingly deranged . . . By any light, this eloquent marvel teases, bewilders and unnerves."
—Times Literary Supplement
"This novella is a fascinating portrait of a solipsistic mind, a scrupulous rendering of the erosion of human empathy that resonates in these uncivil times."
—Christopher Byrd, Vulture
‘I was struck by the compressed farce and horror in the 1951 Dutch novella An Untouched House.’
—Sam Leith, choosing An Untouched House as a Spectator Book of the Year
"Taut . . . dark, thrillerish."
"As disturbing and powerful as anything by Joseph Heller or Kurt Vonnegut."
"Hermans is as alarming as a snake in the bread bin . . . hugely entertaining."