the ledge files
the ledge - nl - uk
Willem Frederik Hermans
Amsterdam 1 Sept. 1921 - Utrecht 27 April 1995 • Dutch prose writer

full text search:

the ledge - flash version*


Willem Frederik Hermans was born in Amsterdam in 1921 and studied physical geography before becoming a lecturer at Groningen University. Disaffected with academia and his native country, he took up residence in Paris in 1973. A champion of unadorned style, he is the author of numerous novels, essays, plays and poems, and is considered one of the greatest post-war European writers. His war novel The Dark Room of Damocles will be published by Harvill Secker in 2007.

Beyond Sleep
A gripping tale of a man approaching breaking point set beyond the end of the civilised world: a modern classic of European literature.

Max Havelaar or the Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company
Multatuli, 1860
Sending shockwaves through the Dutch nation when it was published in 1860, this damning expose of the terrible conditions in the colonies led to welfare reforms in Java and continues to inspire the fairtrade movement today.

The Trial
Franz Kafka, 1925P
'posthumous work'
The tale of Joseph K, a respectable functionary in a bank, who is suddenly arrested and must defend his innocence against a charge about which he can get no information. A nightmare vision of the excesses of modern bureaucracy wedded to the mad agendas of twentieth-century totalitarian regimes.

The Castle
Franz Kafka, 1926P
'published posthumously'
The story of K., the unwanted Land Surveyor who is never admitted to the Castle nor accepted in the village, and yet cannot go home, seems to depict like a dream from the deepest recesses of consciousness, an inexplicable truth about the nature of existence.

Journey to the End of the Night
Louis-Ferdinand Céline, 1932
The picaresque adventures of Bardamu move from the battlefields of World War I (complete with buffoonish officers and cowardly soldiers), to French West Africa, the United States, and back to France in a style of prose that's lyrical, hallucinatory, and hilariously scathing toward nearly everybody and everything. Yet, beneath it all one can detect a gentle core of idealism.

[Fantastische vertellingen]
F. Bordewijk, 1919 / 1923 / 1924
The fantastic, yet oddly realistic stories by F. Bordewijk, with whose compact style Hermans felt a great affinity.

André Breton, 1928
Nadja, André Breton’s most frankly autobiographical book, is the quintessential Surrealist romance.

Paris Peasant
Louis Aragon, 1926
Paris Peasant is, in the author’s words, 'a mythology of the modern'. The book uses the city of Paris as a framework, and Aragon interlaces his text with the city’s ephemera: café menus, maps, inscriptions on monuments, newspaper clippings, as well as the lives of its citizens.

Tractatus logico-philosophicus
Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1922
'Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus[/] was meant to put an end to philosophy. As it turned out, it didn't, because he continued to write later on in life, although after reading it, most of his contemporaries had to keep silent for a bit.'

- a reader,

The Dark Room of Damokles
"WWII novels"
Nihilistic novel about a weakling drawn into the Resistance by his (stronger) doppelgänger - or was it just his imagination?

[De ondergang van de familie Boslowits]
Gerard Reve, 1950
Persecution of the Jews in Amsterdam, seen through the eyes of a young boy.

[Pastorale 1943]
S. Vestdijk, 1948

[Kort Amerikaans]
Jan Wolkers, 1962

Breaking Point
Jacques (eigenlijk: Jacob) Presser, 1957
This novel tells of Westerbork, the transit camp from which Dutch Jews were despatched to Auschwitz. At the heart of the camp system was the desperate competition among victims to buy an extra day's survival at the expense of another's death.

Dangling Man
Saul Bellow, 1944
Take a man waiting - waiting between the two worlds of civilian life and the army, suspended between two identities - and you have a man who, perhaps for the first time in his life, is really free. However, freedom can be a noose around a man's neck.

The Fall
Albert Camus, 1956
Jean-Baptiste Clamence, a successful Parisian barrister, has come to recognize the deep-seated hypocrisy of his existence. His epigrammatic and, above all, discomforting monologue gradually saps, then undermines, the reader' s own complacency.

One, no one, and one hundred thousand
Luigi Pirandello, 1926
Vitangelo Moscarda 'loses his reality' when his wife cavalierly informs him that his nose tilts to the right.

The New York Trilogy
Paul Auster, 1985-1986 (published together in 1990)
Three stories on the nature of identity. In the first a detective writer is drawn into a curious and baffling investigation, in the second a man is set up in an apartment to spy on someone, and the third concerns the disappearance of a man whose childhood friend is left as his literary executor.

Jude the Obscure
Thomas Hardy, 1895
Hardy called Jude the Obscure 'a deadly war waged between flesh and spirit'.

Michael Kohlhaas
Heinrich von Kleist, 1804
A law-abiding horse trader launches a campaign of violence against the nobleman Wenzel von Tronka following the illegal confiscation of his horses.

The Red Badge of Courage
Stephen Crane, 1895
The glory, pride, horror, and cowardice that are associated with war are depicted in a classic account of a young soldier's Civil War experiences.

[De tranen der acacia's]

The House of Refuge
Dutch partisan misbehaves in unoccupied villa.
[Herinneringen van een engelbewaarder]

[Ik heb altijd gelijk]
A veteran of the colonial war in Indonesia vents his anger.
[Onder professoren]
Backstabbing and social disaster after a chemistry professor wins the Noble Prize.
[Een heilige van de horlogerie]

make a note


Code (above)

The Ledge
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht,
Thanks to: De digitale pioniers and
Het Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds
Design: Maurits de Bruijn

Copyright: Pieter Steinz, Stacey Knecht
All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author.