Thursday, June 26, 2008

Overlook's Classic Author Profiles

Willem Frederik Hermans: Author of BEYOND SLEEP and THE DARKROOM OF DAMOCLES

Considered one of the most important Western European authors to emerge from the postwar period, Willem Frederik Hermans was born in Amsterdam in 1921.

World War II left a strong impression on Hermans. His older sister and cousin committed suicide following the German invasion of Amsterdam in 1940, when Hermans was just 19. The war serves as the backdrop for many of his novels.

Appointed as a lecturer on physical geography at the Groningen University, Hermans was forced to resign in 1958 after a parliamentary committee discovered he was using university stationary for his own writing. Hermans later published Among Professors, a fictionalized and biting account of his time at the university, which he’d written entirely on the backs of university letters.

After visiting South Africa in 1983, the Mayor and City Council of Amsterdam declared Hermans persona non grata for disregarding the cultural boycott on the country because of its Apartheid policy. Hermans was thus exiled from his home city until he returned in 1993 for a book presentation, insisting that the City Council revoke the imposition.

Hermans’s unique style of existential satire has been compared to the likes of Heller, Vonnegut, and Kafka. Despite his critical success in Europe, his writing is only now becoming available in the States. His most acclaimed novels, Beyond Sleep and The Darkroom of Damocles are now finally available in English from Overlook.

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