Oek de Jong (b. 1952) is one of Hollands best known prose-writers and essayists. He is the author of successful novels such as Opwaaiende zomerjurken (Billowing Summer Dresses), Cirkel in het gras (Circle in the Grass) and Hokwerda’s kind (Hokwerda’s Child), nominated for the Dutch Libris Literature Prize and the Belgian Golden Book Owl. His magnum opus appeared in 2012: Pier and Ocean, which won him the Golden Owl. Six hundred thousand copies of his books have been sold. His work has been translated into German, French, Scandinavian and several other languages.
In 2013 Oek de Jong published an essay on the state of the novel in an age of tv and film: What Only the Novel Can Tell. His latest book is a collection of essays and autobiographical pieces: The Vision at the Inner Bay (2016).
Pier and Ocean
In Pier and Ocean, Oek de Jong chronicles the history of Abel Roorda, his parents and grandparents, and the immense changes in the Netherlands between the winter famine of 1944 and the new affluence of the 1960s. The novel is set in Amsterdam and in rural Friesland and Zeeland, parts of the country that were then still considered deeply provincial. The gripping scenes from the marriage of Abel’s mother and father provide glimpses of love in a bygone age. Pier and Ocean is a novel of the water that is so central to Dutch life, from still pools in peat bogs to the sea crashing through breakwaters onto the beaches of Zeeland. Like his father and grand father before him, Abel Roorda is drawn to water in its many guises.
Press on Pier and Ocean
‘Oek de Jong’s magnum opus. A stunning evocation of time gone by and an authentic portrait of the artist as a young man.’ – NRC Handelsblad
‘A sweeping family history. Pier and Ocean is very likely to become the literary event of 2012.’ – Vrij Nederland
‘Unquestionably Oek de Jong’s finest work.’ – Trouw
Winner of the Belgian Golden Book Owl 2013
Winner of the Bordewijk Prize
Winner of the Zeeuwse Book Prize
Shortlisted for the Dutch Libris Literature Prize 2013
Longlisted for the AKO Literature Prize 2013
Hokwerda’s Child is the story of a determined young woman, Lin Hokwerda, who loses herself in love. As a young girl, Lin Hokwerda is repeatedly thrown into the river by her father, who holds her by one arm and one leg and hurls her into the water that runs behind their house in the Friesian countryside. Every time after the rough splash into the water, she swims back to her father. Again and again she is flung back – until she almost drowns. With her mother and sister, Lin flees her father at a young age. In her twenties, after a successful but prematurely broken sport career, she meets the man of her dreams. But the pattern of their love resembles that of the opening scene: Lin is consistently cast away by Henri but always comes back. When she meets Jelmer, a mild-mannered lawyer, and again falls in love, it appears, for a moment, that she can eradicate her fatal man from her life. However, she cannot quieten her restlessness and seeks out Henri once more.
Press on Hokwerda’s Child/ La fille de Hokwerda (Editions Gallimard)
‘The prologue of this novel is, in itself, a cruel, unforgettable little tale…’ – Le Temps
‘(…) sensational novel (…) Lin Hokwerda drifts like one of Lars von Trier’s heroine.’ – Le Figaro
‘We are still haunted by this story long after reading it.’ – Elle
‘In Hokwerda’s Child, Oek de Jong explores domestic violence. An astonishing novel.’ – Journal du Dimanche
‘An unsettling and fascinating novel by an author whose every book is an event in the Netherlands.’ – Le Monde
Circle in the Grass
Oek de Jong’s prime preoccupation, the desire for a harmonious life – whether or not through art – is repeated in this novel set in Italy in the late seventies, gripped by the horror of the kidnap and murder of the politician Aldo Moro. One of its ideas is that whoever strives for a Buddhist approach to life must recognize that good and evil are two sides of the same coin: the Red Brigade on the one side and their capitalist victim on the other.
This idea is echoed in the book’s love story in which the author attempts to resolve the contradictions of independence versus surrender and head versus heart. Andrea Simonetti, an Italian art historian and poet, sees his love affair with Dutch journalist Hanna Piccard floundering. The point of view is divided among four characters, and only the author seems finally to triumph. A serious novel of ideas.
Press on Circle in the Grass/ Ein Kreis im Gras (Piper Verlag)
‘Here, an incomprehensible fourteen years late, is Oek de Jong’s wonderfully powerful novel about the most unstable feeling in the world – love.’ – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
‘Circle in the Grass is considered one of the most important contemporary Dutch novels. And probably rightly so.’ – Wiener Zeitung
‘Oek de Jong is not only on a par with Mulisch and Nooteboom, he is also younger, heftier, more ironic and precise. It was about time he was discovered.’ – Neue Züricher Zeitung
In der äussersten Finsternis, Piper Verlag, Munich, 2005, translated by Thomas Hauth; La fille de Hokwerda, Editions Gallimard, Paris, 2004, translated by Anita Concas; Hokwerda datter, Gyldendal, Copenhagen, 2004, translated by Tim Kane
Billowing Summer Frocks
Circle in the Grass
Ein Kreis im Gras, Piper Verlag, Munich, 1999, translated by Thomas Hauth; Un cerc in iarba, Editura Univers, Boecarest, 1991, translated by H.R. Radian; Cirkel i graesset, Gyldendal, Copenhagen, 1988, translated by Tove Kircheiner Galatius;Sirkel i gresset, Gyldendal Norsk Forlag, Oslo, translated by Agnethe Weisser;Kehä sulkeutuu, Kustannusosakeyhtiö Tammi, Helsinki, 1988, translated by Anita Odé; En cirkel i gräset, Norstedts Förlag, Stockholm, 1987, translated by Per Holmer.