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The Darkroom of Damocles by W.F. Hermans
The Darkroom of Damocles
Think of it as falling down a very big hill. You’re standing there, feet firmly planted, when quite unexpectedly you’ve lost your balance. Initially you think you’ll regain your footing, but there you go, head over heels and picking up speed. Occasionally you are not in contact with the ground at all; sometimes you’re raked through brambles. Every now and then you think you might be getting some stability but you’re only deluding yourself. When finally you bounce to the bottom, completely winded, surprised that no bones have been broken, you remain a little disconnected for some time. You discover small bruises for days afterward. You can’t help but wonder if it takes a while for you to regain your previous alignment, or if you’ve just adjusted to a new one.
Reader, be warned: when you open this book you are about to fall down the hill.
W.F. Hermans’ masterful dark gyrating novel about a strange young man who finds himself caught up in the German occupation of the Netherlands is as relentless and compelling a thriller as you’re likely ever to encounter. You could read 300 pages of this riveting tale without taking the time to breathe, so uninterrupted is the tension. Action packed and psychologically irresistible, this is a brilliant and powerful novel.
You’ll be a different person by the time you reach the end of this furious tumble.
Hermans died in 1995, and it is a source of wonder why it has taken until now for this artfully crafted work, originally written in 1958, to appear in English. The translation, by Ina Rilke, is smooth and seamless, a perfect match stylistically to the novel itself.
Another of Hermans’ books, Beyond Sleep, was published in English last year, also by the Overlook Press, and is about to be issued in paperback. If it is half as good as this one, the treat is doubled.
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