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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Schrijvers !

Jessica Durlacher

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Title: Schrijvers !
Author: Jessica Durlacher
Genre: Novel
Written: 2005
Length: 114 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Schriftsteller ! - Deutschland
  • Schrijvers ! has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B- : amusing-enough if somewhat slight writer's-struggles novel

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

[Note: Schrijvers ! has not yet been translated into English, and this review is based on the German translation by Hanni Ehlers, Schriftsteller ! (2009); all quotes are my translation of that translation.]

       The narrator of Schrijvers ! ('Writers !'), Tirza Danz, is herself a writer, her debut novel 'The Father' a great success, having sold some three hundred thousand copies. For the past decade or so she has been together with Marvin, who has enjoyed steady success -- and critical adulation -- as a writer for much longer already, with at least fifteen novels under his belt. Tirza is struggling with her new work, having played around with it for a year already; she's just shown Marvin the first chapter and he's basically ripped it apart, top to bottom, which has done nothing for Tirza's confidence as she worries that she might just be a one-hit wonder.
       The action basically begins with a dinner she and Marvin have been invited to, held by her publisher, Bastiaan. Also present is the painter Ferenc Lasko, for whom Tirza had posed in the nude several years earlier, as well as Ferenc's wife, Zita, as well as a young German author named Axel Andel. Andel has achieved some notoriety with his work, including a novel that appeared at about the same time as Tirza's -- and was also titled, in the original, 'The Father', with the title then changed for the Dutch translation. On top of that, his latest had been withdrawn from circulation after Andel's former girlfriend took him to court, charging that it was too obviously about her.
       Tirza is of the everything-is-material-for fiction school of writing (she also teaches the craft), while Andel puts it more forcefully: 'Writing means lying, stealing and murdering' (which of course gives one high hopes where this might be going ...).
       Reading her e-mails after the dinner, Tirza finds one from an Ada Hammerstein, who wants to interview her for a professional magazine for psychologists. Among the curious things about this is that 'Ada Hammerstein' is also the name of the protagonist from Tirza's novel. (Ada herself professes ignorance about that -- not having bothered to read the novel yet .....) A strange often passive-aggressive back-and-forth follows between Ada and Tirza, and then also Ada's boss, Rachel Solomon, as Tirza says she's willing to be interviewed but neither Ada nor then Rachel actually manage to meet up with her; at times Tirza has to wonder whether the two, and the project, even exist or it's some elaborate, bizarre hoax. Their behavior is certainly odd.
       Tirza also has trouble with a confrontational student in a class she teaches, and finds her superiors aren't very supportive of her concerns.
       The novel moves quickly in short chapters -- twenty-eight of them covering the just 114 pages (of the German edition) of the novel -- shifting between these various touchpoints that mostly don't seem all too connected.
       After some struggles, Tirza then finally has the material and inspiration she needs -- yes, based on these experiences she's recounted -- and does quickly finish that next novel -- titling it: 'Writers !' Satisfied with how things turn out, she's nevertheless in for a surprise, as Durlacher ties together many of what had seemed to be loose and disparate threads.
       Confidently and quite engagingly written, Schrijvers ! is amusing in its depiction the writing life and the various actors that touch upon Tirza's. Much hinges on the basic plot -- Schrijvers ! is a writing-of-Schrijvers !-novel -- and the final payoff-point; as such, it doesn't really deliver nearly enough. It is enjoyable enough, along the way and in its conclusion, but ultimately feels a bit light for all that Durlacher has undertaken to chew on here.

- M.A.Orthofer, 19 March 2023

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Schrijvers !: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Dutch literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Jessica Durlacher was born in 1961.

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© 2023 the complete review

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