This is the time of the year when newspaper supplements and the Times Literary Supplement and others publish lists of authors’ favourite book (stroking each other?) of the year. These supplements tends to confine themselves to the English market, the TLS includes a slightly wider range in that it also lists books that may have appeared in translation, or not.
AS Byatt gives Geert Mak ‘In Europe’ as the first on her list, which I find very pleasing. He has become a hugely respected writer in the Netherlands and it appears, also further afield. He is now being translated and acknowledged as a historian who writes with passion and in excellent prose about European cities. He has also written the memorable ‘In de eeuw van mijn vader’ (my father’s century) which is not available in English translation. Shame. It is an excellent history of the Dutch, and evokes the hugely influential Calvinist era, that left indelible marks on so many who tried and managed to escape from it, Jan Wolkers, a well known author, is one of them.
A friend of mine sent me a recent supplement to the Dutch Newspaper ‘De Volkskrant’ which has an interview with Geert Mak and that made me realise how much that culture still defines me.