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Eileen Battersby On Otto De Kat

“How to canonise Eileen Battersby?” asked Christopher MacLehose when he saw the stunning Irish Times spread on Otto de Kat’s Julia, which, making a mockery of the trend towards minimising review space, also took in de Kat’s previous novels in translation, Man on the Move and The Figure in the Distance . . .

Julia is de Kat’s fourth novel, his third to be translated into English. It acquires an increasingly subtle and relentless power. Formerly a leading publisher and critic in the Netherlands, de Kat (real name Jan Geurt Gaarlandt, born in 1946) began his writing life as a poet. His first novel, The Figure in the Distance (2002), took restlessness as its central theme. States of mind dominate his work. In Man on the Move (2004, translated 2009), the central character realises that, despite his endless travel, life is something that happens to other people. Comparisons with Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea (1938) are obvious and have been made by reviewers across Europe. It is an ode not to friendship but to the idea of friendship. In common with Julia, it is as much a poem as it is a novel.

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Julia is another of those deceptively ‘little’ novels, just under 200 pages, that say so much more than many narratives twice the length. Included among the longlisted nominations for the forthcoming International Impac Dublin Literary Award, Julia is extraordinary. In Chris Dudok, de Kat has created a portrait of a passive son, lover, husband and dreamer who lives in a state of quiet lamentation. He is not a hero, only a man. His story is one of regret, a life lost in so many ways. It is as chilling as it is sad and familiar. Anyone who read Man on the Move will probably have already reached for Julia, or will want to. These are novels of subtle emotional distance that compel a reader into a cohesive response that it as physical as a blow to the heart.”

You can read the full, much, much longer review here.

Both Julia and Man on the Move are available in paperback.

Review: Otto De Kat’s Julia

The fabulous literature blog Just William’s Luck has posted an incisive and interesting review of Otto De Kat’s Julia:

MacLehose Press are prolific publishers specialising in literature in translation. The problem is that they’re so prolific (or have been so generous in making titles available to read and review) and their list so varied and wide-ranging that making a decision about which books to actually read can prove to be almost paralysing.

What was it that made me finally opt for this slim novel from former publisher Jan Geurt Gaarlandt? [...]

The way in which de Kat moves between these three separate viewpoints is as seamless and fluid as memory and his prose throughout is spare (as I have come to expect from Dutch novelists of late) but with moments of wonderful poetry.

In a novel about freedom and its opposite he helps us to see that though Chris is fortunate enough to be able to escape the growing horror in Germany we have to question how much or in what way he was able to escape it at all.

To read the review in full please head on over to Just William’s Luck.

Otto De Kat’s Julia: Review

The indispensible literature blog milorambles has posted a spectacular review of Otto De Kat’s Julia:

Beautifully translated by Ina Rilke – a prize winning translator of books including Cees Nooteboom and Margriet de Moor – Julia is a veritable work of art. Weighing in at a little under 200 pages my only negative comment would be with its size, I simply fell in love with the book and like all good relationships I wanted more. It was over far too soon.

The prose is an example of one of the most beautiful and heart felt books I’ve had the pleasure of reading this year. There’s something magical about it that simply draws you in, the combination of storytelling, a love lost and a country at the most uncertain of times effortlessly holding your attention throughout. . .

It’s very rare for me to give marks out of five or ten for any review but this book – for me – is faultless. With that in mind there’s only one score I could award this wonderfully evocative tale of lost love – 5 out of 5. I can’t say much more than that. If you’re looking for a little escapism on a dreary winter’s night then look no further than Julia by Otto de Kat, beautifully written, you won’t be sorry.

Read the review in full over on the the milorambles blog.

Julia By Otto De Kat

Julia, published this month, is Dutch novelist Otto de Kat’s third novel in English translation after The Figure in the Distance and Man on the Move. All his novels are set around the Second World War – it’s my subject, he said to me once at the London Book Fair – and his lastest work has just been delivered to his Dutch publisher. That is, the Dutch publisher who publishes his novels – there is also the Dutch publishing house that he founded (Otto de Kat is a pen name).

De Kat’s novels are particularly big in Germany, where Peter Henning has described Julia as “a masterpiece” in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and where a film of the novel is currently in production. Our edition was hailed by the author as the most beautiful edition of any of his books he had ever seen, and the translation was undertaken by Ina Rilke who recently translated The Foxes Come At Night by Cees Nooteboom for us.

The very first review for Julia has just come in, from the Bookbag:

“Many sentences have a poignancy about them and the reader is left sometimes, to almost want to fill in the gaps. Yes, war does strange things to certain individuals. The pieces of the jig-saw do fit eventually but before all that, we have to endure Chris’s heartbreaking story. Tight, taut and tense in places. A beautifully told tale. Highly recommended” Read the full review

Various little birds have told us that here will be many more to come, hopefully as glowing as the collection gleaned for Man on the Move:

“A novel of extraordinary power and moral beauty” Paul Binding, Independent

“A stark and impressive piece of storytelling” Nora Mahoney, T.L.S.

“An impressionistic, existential Odyssey . . . a thoughtful, elegiac text to be savoured slowly, again and again” Roger Cox, Scotsman

“In its elegant, nihilistic fashion, it is a celebration of life” Gordon Darroch, Scottish Sunday Herald