A New Novel: The Boys
“My name is Jan Mendel, native of Kennemerland, a true Celt, born behind the dike of the North Sea Canal, in the shadow of the Hoogovens Steel Mill, and raised with the seawind in my hair, and in my nose the pure aroma of algae, fuel oil and the fish market.”
“I cannot show you literary credentials, because I don’t have any, but I’ve never shied away from a new challenge, and let’s be frank: how hard can it be to write a book? Besides, my memory is excellent, so it’s no problem at all that the events in this story took place more than fifty years ago.”
“I had unbuttoned my jacket, which was against the rules, and every time I spun Lydia around during the quick-step, or stepped towards her in the cha-cha-cha. I managed to briefly touch her breasts with my very proper white shirt. Whoever came up with the idea that puberty is a bleak intermezzo between youth and real life? I was thirteen and deliriously happy.”
“It was love at first sight. I actually don’t believe in that at all, but this was the exception to the rule. It wasn’t because Lenie was so incredibly beautiful. She was, but if you have an active attitude to life you’re likely to meet a beautiful girl every day.”
“I swore a solemn oath: during summer vacation I would accompany Bart to the island of Terschelling, get stoned out of my mind, and not come back until I after had, for real, literally, in the flesh, from alpha to omega, done it.”
“According to Mendel’s Morphology of Provincial Passions love not only knows four phases (admiration, it’s mutual, hope, apotheosis), but also four kinds: tender love, monkey love, hyena love and true love.”
“Ageeth said she lived in Happy Landing, and that was sensational news. It was a boarding school for wealthy girls who - as it was called in those days - had gotten themselves in trouble.”
“They were fairy-tale beautiful, but I’ll spare you the details. I’m sure you’ve seen beautiful breasts yourself, live or in the mirror.”
“Only people my age look back with sadness and regret. When you’re still young you expect without thinking about it that happiness will erupt at any moment, or at the latest early next month.”
From the publisher’s catalog: An exuberant novel about the adventure of being young, the discoveries, the passion, and the humor. DE JONGENS is, in the narrator’s own words, a book with open arms.
Geert van der Kolk has lived and worked in the US for decades. His books and stories are often set in remote, inhospitable regions like Greenland, Papua or East-Africa. In DE JONGENS he returns to a place that’s in many respects even more exotic: the Dutch provincial town where he went to school.
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[ Just added: of the sailing adventures that inspired some of the books ]