Beyond Sleep

Willem Frederik Hermans, Author, Ina Rilke, Translator , trans. from the Dutch by Ina Rilke. Overlook $25.95 (311p) ISBN 978-1-58567-583-8

Dutch geology student Alfred Issendorf makes a wonderfully quixotic journey in this previously untranslated 1966 gem from Hermans (1921–1995), a Dutch novelist who worked in Paris. Alfred sets out for Norway's northernmost region of Finnmark with three other students to try to confirm their professor's dubious hypothesis that regional craters resulted from meteor impact rather than Ice Age glaciers. Insecure, exhausted, doubting his career choice and barely up to the physical rigor of trekking through the Arctic wilderness, Alfred begins to imagine that everyone—his companions and their mentors—is plotting against him. But he is determined to make his mark, mostly to compensate for the loss of his biologist father who fell into a mountain chasm when Alfred was six. The story takes an unexpected turn when Alfred loses his compass—literally—and reveals surprising reserves of fortitude and cunning. For all his anxiety and irony, he also proves a sympathetic narrator, particularly in the development of his relationship with Arne, one of his companions, who is in many ways his opposite. In this moving tragicomedy, Alfred's self-knowledge is achieved at great cost and offers him little hope. Hermans's portrayal of Alfred's existential transformation is deep and crystalline. (May)

Reviewed on: 10/30/2006
Release date: 05/01/2007
Hardcover - 311 pages - 978-1-84343-205-0
Paperback - 311 pages - 978-1-58567-988-1
Open Ebook - 32 pages - 978-1-4683-0375-9
Show other formats
Discover what to read next