14 June 2015

Mystical body

Only after I read this book I realised this year, 2015, is Kellendonk Year. I'm not sure anyone has told the anglophones; I don't think this man's work has been translated into English. But feel free to read on. 

When I bought this book I didn't know anything about it other than that it rang a bell. Good enough reason; if I've heard of it it it must be a classic, mustn't it? And in hindsight it is even rather classical, with the author even having a year of his own and all that. 

So what's the judgement? I liked it! I'm still pondering  what it has told me, and that is a good thing. It is a tale of an unusual and initially very spread-out family; the father, his adult daughter who has left home to train as a physician, and his adult son who has become an art critic in New York. At the beginning of the book the daughter returns home; she seems to have a penchant for dating the wrong men, getting herself into trouble and returning to her father, who seems to have a tactic of convincing her she is of little worth, thereby keeping her close. 

Later on, the son comes home too; he had a boyfriend who was a gigolo, in New York, in the eighties. Does it surprise anyone he contracts a disease? The medical costs inspire the son to start some dodgy speculative trade in art in order to make an easy buck. Later on, his boyfriend dies, and the ground gets a bit too hot under his feet, so he comes back too. He isn't that warmly welcomed back. 

The book explores (at least) the place in the world we have if we let go of the traditional anchors like reproduction and religion. One has to find one's own way. Money, love, art and charity are all being weighed in a style I found pleasant.

So why is 2015 Kellendonk year? He died 25 years ago, of AIDS. This book was his last. Now is the time to reflect on this way too short career, and on how this book is still relevant in our day. I think the main question has not lost any of its validity!

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