Bakker, Gerbrand. “The Twin” (translated by David Colmer), Archipelago Books, 2010.
Henk and Helmer are twins living on a farm in the Netherlands. Henk was not only his father’s favorite but he had a great personality and was popular with his friends, He was to get married but was killed in an automobile accident before the wedding. With Henk’s death, Helmer had to come home and help on the family farm and he was very unhappy about it. Helmer also has to deal with fact that he is a bachelor who still lives with his father and in fact the novel picks up thirty seven years after Henk’s death. His father cannot get around by himself and it becomes Henk’s responsibility to take care of him.
Helmer is now in his 60’s and he realizes that his hope for a career in academia was lost with the death of his twin. He is lonely and bitter about how his life has turned out and now that he has moved his father upstairs and out of the way, he occupies himself by becoming friendly with his neighbors and their sons, taking care of his father. He stands on the cusp of becoming the master of his fate.
The translation is excellent and this is a wonderful read. It touched me deeply and that is probably because we all deal with some degree of loneliness. The book looks at loss and redemption in emotional terms and it is emotion and not characters or plot that drives this novel. It is beautifully written and an absolute treasure.