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Een nagelaten bekentenis
Marcellus Emants
publisher: Van Holkema en Warendorf, Amsterdam, 1894

translated as:
A Posthumous Confession
publisher: Querido, Amsterdam, 1975
translation: J.M. Coetzee

refered to by:
Old People and the Things that Pass
Louis Couperus

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This novel opens with one of the most arresting passages in Dutch literature, in which the narrator tells us he has murdered his wife, realizes this was pointless since he cannot now enjoy his freedom, and describes what he sees when he looks in the mirror – ‘a pale delicate insignificant little man with a dull gaze and a weak, slack mouth’.
Where can the novel go after this? What follows is directed towards the reader and motivated by the desire to explain the apparent mystery of how such an unenterprising individual could perform such an abominable act. A Posthumous Confession, which was published in 1894, is an in-depth exploration of self in fiction in which no detail is spared in the search to uncover the forces at work on the character of Termeer. He was already shy and withdrawn as a child, with a highly-strung father who ends up in a mental institution, so there is a suggestion that his neurotic behaviour is to some extent inborn. On the other
hand, the parents never showed their only son any love and affection, so nurture, or rather lack of it, also plays a part. The shyness increases until Termeer becomes a real loner with such a lack of self-esteem that it is a mystery how he ever married at all. From the outset it is clear that his marriage to Anna will be unhappy, and what fascinates the reader is Emants’ depiction of the gradual and complex slide towards the suitably cowardly form of murder in which Termeer, on impulse, pours chloral down his sleeping wife’s throat. There is a complete absence of melodrama, so concentrated is the narrative on Termeer’s inner life.
One mystery still remains once the tale is told: why is the confession posthumous? Perhaps he did go to his mistress and reveal the truth and paid the penalty, perhaps he committed suicide, or perhaps, as he himself suggests, writing it all down will help him keep the secret until he dies.


bookweb from:
Lezen&Cetera, Pieter Steinz

A Posthumous Confession
A man of 'tainted stock' murders his wife and tells his life story.
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The Ledge
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht,
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