*Booker International Prize winner
Nawaid Anjum wrote at scroll.in on Sep 22, 2020:
“…In the great tradition of ontluisterend realisme (shocking realism) in the Dutch literature (think Turkish Delights by Jan Wolkers; a few lines from one of his poems in the epigraph refer to chords being a “clothesline of grief”) with its characteristic sexual candour, The Discomfort of Evening has an unflinching gaze on sexuality, religion and “the filth of existence,” as Rijneveld, who refuses to identify with either sex and prefers the non-binary pronoun they, told the Booker Prize Foundation.
It is about the sacred and the profane, about death and desire, sadness and humour. Rendered into English by Michele Hutchison, it does to the reader everything it intends to do, through its relentless “raw, visceral and surreal” images and abject similes, giving the reader a “radical reading experience”.
In a novel so preoccupied with the way death of a loved one nibbles away at the living, the gloom that hangs heavy is contrasted with the lightness of irreverent humour – a vein runs through the novel.
“I wanted to set darkness against light,” Rijneveld told Dazed in an interview. “A book can’t only be about the darkness.”
“Jas is funny and has great ideas,” Rijneveld said. “She learns about the Second World War at school so, when her mum stops eating, Jas thinks it is because her mum’s giving her food to Jewish people who are hiding in the basement from the Nazis.”
“Children have great minds,” Rijneveld said…”
From The Discomfort of Evening:
” ‘How’s it going in the basement?’
I don’t look at my mother but fix my gaze on the flowery meadow on her apron. It’s possible that Mum will move into the basement one day; that she’ll find the family, the Jewish people that live there, nicer than us. What will happen to the three kings then, I don’t know: Dad is still incapable of even heating up milk for coffee, and if he lets even that boil over, how could he ever keep his children at the right temperature?
‘What do you mean?’ Mum asks. She turns around and goes to turn the cheeses lying on the wall shelving. Of course I should have known she wasn’t going to give away her operating base just like that. Just as you have to be careful with the cows when combining different races. Maybe she’s preparing to go away, to leave us. Maybe that’s why she’s stopped wearing her glasses, so that we stay at a distance…”