1983, Leiden Writer, essayist and political scientist.
Wytske Versteeg’s debut book was non-fiction, Dit is geen dakloze [This one’s not homeless] (2008), written after her period as a volunteer working with homeless people. Her first novel, De wezenlozen [Lacking Emotion] (2012), about the disruptive effect parents can have on the lives of their children, won her the Dutch Female Debutant Prize. With her second novel, Boy (2013) she won the BNG Literature Prize. This book, about a mother seeking a reason for the death of her adopted son, describes human shortcomings with merciless precision. The translation rights have been sold to Germany, the UK, Denmark and Turkey. In 2015 the novel Quarantine appeared, again very enthusiastically received by the press. Besides novels, Versteeg writes essays, poetry and plays.
Translated by Christiane Burkhardt
Klaus Wagenbach, April 2016
Original title: Boy (Prometheus, 2013)
After a school trip to the beach Boy seems to have disappeared from the face of the Earth. Suicide, the police conclude after his body surfaces. But his adoptive mother can’t live with that conclusion.
Dead set on finding out who was responsible for Boy’s death she follows a trail to the drama teacher, Hannah, who took the class to the beach that day. Hannah has since begun a new life in the countryside of Bulgaria and welcomes Boy’s mother unsuspectingly. While the snow begins to fall, the two women strike up an oppressive relationship where nothing is what it seems. As trust grows, Hannah begins, in pieces, to tell the story of Boy. His mother, meanwhile, thinks of only one thing: revenge.
Boy is a keen, poignant book about the influence of grief. It is the impressive follow-up to The Discharged, Wytske Versteeg’s matchless debut novel that made the longlist for the AKO Literature Prize and the Opzij Literature Award.
Extreme, uninterrupted drama. With her contemplative, almost careless tone, Versteeg keeps the suffering at a distance, allowing the reader room to breathe.
A huge discovery; one would like to say it more often about a debut novel, but rarely is it possible: the Netherlands is a writer richer.