THE EVENINGS

A Winter's Tale

Gerard Reve & Sam Garrett (Translator)

I work in an office. I take cards out of a file. Once I have taken them out, I put them back in again. That is it.

Twenty-three-year-old Frits—office worker, daydreamer, teller of inappropriate jokes—finds life absurd and inexplicable. He lives with his parents, who drive him mad. He has terrible, disturbing dreams of death and destruction. Sometimes he talks to a toy rabbit.

This is the story of ten evenings in Frits’s life at the end of December, as he drinks, smokes, sees friends, aimlessly wanders the gloomy city streets and tries to make sense of the minutes,

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I work in an office. I take cards out of a file. Once I have taken them out, I put them back in again. That is it.

Twenty-three-year-old Frits—office worker, daydreamer, teller of inappropriate jokes—finds life absurd and inexplicable. He lives with his parents, who drive him mad. He has terrible, disturbing dreams of death and destruction. Sometimes he talks to a toy rabbit.

This is the story of ten evenings in Frits’s life at the end of December, as he drinks, smokes, sees friends, aimlessly wanders the gloomy city streets and tries to make sense of the minutes, hours and days that stretch before him.

Darkly funny and mesmerising, The Evenings takes the tiny, quotidian triumphs and heartbreaks of our everyday lives and turns them into a work of brilliant wit and profound beauty.

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  • Pushkin Press
  • Hardcover
  • March 2016
  • 320 Pages
  • 9781782271789

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$22.00

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About Gerard Reve & Sam Garrett (Translator)

Gerard Reve (1923-2006) is considered one of the greatest post-war Dutch authors, and was also the first openly gay writer in the country’s history. A complicated and controversial character, Reve is also hugely popular and critically acclaimed—his 1947 debut The Evenings was chosen as one of the nation’s 10 favourite books by the readers of a leading Dutch newspaper while the Society of Dutch Literature ranked it as the Netherlands’ best novel of all time.

Praise

AN OBSERVER AND FINANCIAL TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2016

“A canonical work of postwar European fiction… flares of pathos and despairing love light up the novel’s empty nighttime landscape.”—Wall Street Journal

“Captivating.”—The Atlantic

“A masterpiece.”—National Post

“The funniest, most exhilarating novel about boredom ever written. If The Evenings had appeared in English in the 1950s, it would have become every bit as much a classic as On the Road and The Catcher in the Rye.”—Herman Koch, author of The Dinner

Essay

HOW I BECAME A TRANSLATOR

by Sam Garrett

At times, as a younger translator, I had the guilty sense of having come to this profession as a thief in the night. Many of my colleagues, after all, held degrees in comparative linguistics, in Dutch or English literature. My only academic credentials were – and still are – an aborted journalism major and, finally, a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. The path that had led me to literary translation was so very different from theirs.

In 1980, after a long series of adventures and misadventures on the road, I found myself living in Amsterdam, in the house that had been squatted and saved from the wrecking ball years earlier by my beloved, my partner for almost forty years now, the mother of my four Dutch children.

For the first few years, as a foreigner from outside what was then still referred to as “the Common Market”, I was not allowed to work in Holland and barely allowed to stay in the country at all. All I could do, once I had tired of endlessly cycling around the city and carrying out consumer comparisons of its pubs and clubs, was read. I began the process of learning Dutch by reading aloud to my beloved from children’s books, with her patiently correcting my pronunciation of the language’s frustratingly frequent diphthongs and explaining cultural references I might have missed. This, supplemented with regular shopping trips to the local street market and my largely one-way conversations in fractured Dutch with the merchants there, was the world’s best introduction to a city, culture and language with which, frankly, I had already fallen in love. Unlike many of my colleagues, it was not that I fashioned myself into a translator, but that this love fashioned a translator out of me.

After two or three years I reached a point where I could actually read fiction and poetry in Dutch. I was working for the Dutch national press agency at the time, as a translator / journalist, but among the first of the gaggle of Dutch classics I devoured was one called De Avonden, by Gerard Reve. It must have been 1983. The novel’s humor – at times wry, at times brutal and socially inappropriate – in combination with its slow, beautiful depiction of a young man at odds with himself, ashamed of his parents and of himself for being ashamed of them, painfully aware of his position in the house of mirrors within which so much of human interaction takes place, came as a revelation. Oh, if only my English-speaking friends could read this!

Thank God no one asked me to translate it at the time; I still had far too much to learn. I would have failed miserably. But the love remained intact. Almost forty years later, after whetting my skills on a roughly equal number of novels and works of non-fiction, the time was ripe. De Avonden, with all its diphthongs and close cultural in-jokes, became The Evenings, it crossed the North Sea and then the Atlantic and, as Frits van Egters muses at the end of the book, “it has been seen… it has not gone unnoticed.” And I, I am free to move on.

Copyright Sam Garrett