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War and Turpentine (2013)

av Stefan Hertmans

Andra författare: Se under Andra författare.

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
8854624,370 (3.99)107
"An international best seller: a vivid, masterly novel about a Flemish man who reconstructs his grandfather's story--his hopes, loves, and art, all disrupted by the First World War--from the unflinching notebooks he filled with pieces of his life. The life of Urbain Martien--artist, soldier, survivor of World War I--lies contained in two notebooks he left behind when he died in 1981. His grandson, a writer, retells his story, the notebooks giving him the impetus to imagine his way into the locked chambers of Urbain's memory. He vividly recounts a whole life: Urbain as the child of a lowly church painter, retouching his father's work; dodging death in a foundry; fighting in the war that altered the course of history; marrying the sister of the woman he truly loved; haunted by an ever-present reminder of the artist he had hoped to be and the soldier he was forced to become. Wrestling with this story, Urbain's grandson straddles past and present, searching for a way to understand his own part in both. As artfully rendered as a Renaissance fresco, War and Turpentine paints an extraordinary portrait of one man's life and reveals how that life echoed down through the generations. (With black-and-white illustrations throughout.)"--… (mer)
  1. 00
    Giganternas fall av Ken Follett (Anonym användare)
  2. 00
    Det första världskriget av John Keegan (WiJiWiJi)
  3. 00
    Dood van een soldaat av Johanna Spaey (VonKar)
  4. 00
    Svindel. Känslor av W. G. Sebald (aileverte)
    aileverte: Part III of War and Turpentine has an epigraph from Sebald's Vertigo, and the book itself is very much inspired by Sebald's writing style.
  5. 00
    På västfronten intet nytt av Erich Maria Remarque (aileverte)
    aileverte: Remarque's book was another source of inspiration for Hertmans, and the descriptions of life at the front are evocative of Remarque's masterpiece.
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» Se även 107 omnämnanden

engelska (25)  nederländska (16)  spanska (2)  franska (1)  norska (1)  Alla språk (45)
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#ReadAroundTheWorld. #Belgium

This book is a poetic novelisation by Flemish Belgian author Stefan Hertmans, of the life of his grandfather, Urbain Martien, who lived from 1891 to 1981. The book has been translated from Dutch, and is based on two notebooks Stefan’s grandfather gave him, containing Urbain’s written recollections of his life especially the time serving in WWI.

Urbain grew up in Ghent at the end of the 19th Century in a poor family, his father working as a church mural painter. Urbain worked as an ironworker, his body scarred by the molten sparks, and painted passionately in his spare time, reproducing works of the masters.

The book shifts between a third person account narrated by Stefan, including his own recollections of his grandfather, then the middle section of the book is a first person account supposedly from Urbain’s diary accounts of the war. The final part shifts back to a third person account of his post-war life, romance, tragic losses, family life and struggles. It is hard to know how much of the account is Urbain’s and how much has been fictionalised, but the writing is beautiful and descriptive. I found the war section most engrossing. It describes the racism of the French officers towards the Flemish soldiers, the muddy horrific life in the trenches, and Urbain’s courage in volunteering for missions no-one else wanted.

The third person sections felt rather jumpy and more awkward. I’m not fond of books with an intrusive narrator, it tends to take me out of the story itself. Nevertheless this was a good read, I liked Urbain as a character, and I enjoyed the contrast between beautiful descriptions of artworks and the ugliness of the war. ( )
  mimbza | Apr 8, 2024 |
Stefan Hertmans' War and Turpentine is a painful if beautiful work of war guilt, as he himself explains late in the book. It mixes together real or imagined diary entries of his grandfather with personal reflection on the past, WWI, and his immediate ancestors.

Both his grandfather and his father before him were painters, the older father being a restorer of church paintings and frescoes in Belgium and England.

The son, Hertmans' grandfather, was more of a hobbiest artist after an excruciating if heroic time as a foot soldier in WWI. The first person storytelling of the trenches, of life as a squad commander, and the experience of being wounded in the conflict are as affecting as any I've read. It ranks up there with some of my favourites on WWI, including Birdsong and Three Day Road.

But the story is as much about love and longing for beauty as war and this is where it departs from much of the fiction I read these days.

The fathers in this this tale succumb to the love passion as deeply as the experience in war. If anything, I wonder if the story isn't more about the author missing that connection with passion and pain in the way his forebears experienced it. The smells and the terror of war. The agony of the flu carrying off the most beautiful woman before that love is consummated. And the loss of the husband so beautiful and pure in his art that a woman can't even look at other men (even the man she subsequently married) 30 years after consumption took him to the grave.

There is something else of of nationalism in the book where the young Flemish soldier is demeaned by his French-speaking officers. "Here is my blood, where is my freedom" engraved in a war monument.

Pretty much what people feel today. ( )
  MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
An unnamed author remembered his grandfather as a frail elderly man, wearing a suit and a flowing black bow tie and perched on pale spindly legs as he waded in the ocean surf. And then he inherited his grandfather's diaries...

The story of the Belgian experience during WWI, as told by one who survived a brutal childhood to lose nearly everything in the war while maintaining his humanity throughout.

Written by a poet.... ( )
  jemisonreads | Jan 22, 2024 |
This work of historical fiction is based on the life of the author’s grandfather, Belgian artist Urbain Martien (1891 – 1981). Martien, the son of an artist, grew up in Ghent in a poor family, fought at the battlefront in the Great War, suffered the loss of loved ones, and turned to art for healing. He meticulously copied the masters and wrote in his journals. He exhibited the values and traditions of the nineteenth century while dealing with tumultuous changes of the twentieth. He struggled with traumatic memories, family tragedies, and unfulfilled artistic ambitions.

Hertmans has a knack for portraying the atmosphere of the era, and the reader can sense the harshness of life before modern medicine and conveniences. The horrors of trench warfare are described in vivid detail. Martien was wounded, and returned to the front, only to be wounded again (and again). His grandfather adhered to a code of honor, sense of duty, and self-discipline. The accounts of Martien’s experiences on the battlefront are strikingly offset by the beauty of art.

It contains three parts – the first and third are written in third person by the grandson, who inserts his own recollections into the narrative. The second, containing memories of war, is written in first person from Martien’s perspective. The writing is elegant. Hertmans is a poet and it shows. (I read the English translation from the Dutch by David McKay.) The flow is a little choppy in places, with occasional gaps in the narrative.

I felt drawn in and transported back in time. This book is a wonderful tribute to the author’s grandfather. Hertmans has taken a fascinating life and fashioned it into a moving and memorable story.

It slowly dawns on him, as he stares into the roaring stoke hole in the iron foundry and the sparks dance around him like fireflies, that his shock of revulsion at the sight of that apocalyptic heap of rotting flesh filled with gaping dead eyes has awoken something that tugs at him, that hurts, that opens a new space inside him – that for the first time he feels a desire that seems greater than himself. It is the desire to draw and paint, and the instant he becomes aware of it. The sudden realization washes over him with overwhelming force, in which there is an element of guilt. The realization that he wants to do what his father does. It wells up inside him like a sob, like a painful, electric shock from deep within, where his unconscious has taken its time to ripen before coming to light. And he cries.

4.5 ( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Prachtig! ( )
  KarlaWinters | Nov 19, 2021 |
Visa 1-5 av 45 (nästa | visa alla)
Before this exciting, candid, at times verbose first-person narrative from the trenches begins, there is a slight problem. Part one proves a pedestrian affair in which Hertmans attempts to reconstruct the earlier life of his grandfather, whom he knew only as an old man.

The opening sequence is interesting, often touching but the methodology which also includes the author’s present day life intermingled with his boyhood memories and the more distant days of his grandfather’s youth, is dutiful, self conscious and somewhat tentative as the influence of the great W.G. Sebald occasionally overpowers the writing.

Admirers of Sebald may decide War and Turpentine is a pale imitation and look elsewhere. That would be a pity. Hertmans does lack the laconic tone of wry melancholy which Sebald mastered and his inspired translator Anthea Bell conveys so brilliantly.
 
In the final section, Hertmans reappears to narrate the six decades of Urbain’s postwar life. There is a sad secret at the heart of his loveless marriage to Gabrielle that it wouldn’t do to give away; it provides much of the pathos in this heartbreaking section. The only consolation left to Urbain in the long tail of his life appears to have been painting, and Hertmans writes about this with both passion and delicacy. The book has such convincing density of detail, with the quiddities of a particular life so truthfully rendered, that I was reminded of a phrase from Middlemarch: “an idea wrought back to the directness of sense, like the solidity of objects”. Hertmans’ achievement is exactly that.
 

» Lägg till fler författare

Författarens namnRollTyp av författareVerk?Status
Hertmans, Stefanprimär författarealla utgåvorbekräftat
McKay, DavidÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat
Rosselin, IsabelleÖversättaremedförfattarevissa utgåvorbekräftat

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De verste herinnering die ik aan mijn grootvader heb, is die aan het strand van Oostende - een man van zesenzestig, keurig in het nachtblauwe pak, heeft met de blauwe strandschep van zijn kleinzoon een ondiepe put gegraven waarvan hij de opgeworpen rand heeft afgeplat, zodat hij en zijn vrouw daar enigszins gerieflijk kunnen gaan zitten.
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"An international best seller: a vivid, masterly novel about a Flemish man who reconstructs his grandfather's story--his hopes, loves, and art, all disrupted by the First World War--from the unflinching notebooks he filled with pieces of his life. The life of Urbain Martien--artist, soldier, survivor of World War I--lies contained in two notebooks he left behind when he died in 1981. His grandson, a writer, retells his story, the notebooks giving him the impetus to imagine his way into the locked chambers of Urbain's memory. He vividly recounts a whole life: Urbain as the child of a lowly church painter, retouching his father's work; dodging death in a foundry; fighting in the war that altered the course of history; marrying the sister of the woman he truly loved; haunted by an ever-present reminder of the artist he had hoped to be and the soldier he was forced to become. Wrestling with this story, Urbain's grandson straddles past and present, searching for a way to understand his own part in both. As artfully rendered as a Renaissance fresco, War and Turpentine paints an extraordinary portrait of one man's life and reveals how that life echoed down through the generations. (With black-and-white illustrations throughout.)"--

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