prizes & nominations
JUST PUBLISHED (february 2012, now in its 4th print):
Love has no Brains
A refined psychological game
We find ourselves in a seemingly ordinary situation of the sort Mensje van Keulen favours for her stories and novels. She is a subtle storyteller with a sharp eye for significant, often slightly bizarre details that give her work a melancholy atmosphere and considerable power. Her characters are not superheroes, indeed they could be the man or woman next door. In Liefde heeft geen hersens (Love has no Brains) a slightly shabby block of flats serves as the realistic facade behind which all kinds of things turn out to be happening... click here for more.
Mensje van Keulen was born in The Hague on 10 June 1946 as Mensje Francina van der Steen, known as Mennie. She has a son and lives in Amsterdam.
For eight years she was one of the editors of the literary journal Maatstaf, together with Gerrit Komrij, Theo Sontrop and Martin Ros. Her first story (Een bruiloft) was published in 1969 in Hollands Maandblad. Her debut novel, Bleekers zomer, appeared in 1972. The first review (by K.L. Poll in NRC Handelsblad) began with the words: 'This is it.' This acclaimed novel has been reprinted many times and is now considered one of the classics of Dutch literature.
The autobiographical Olifanten op een Web (1997), which Mensje wrote after the death of her mother, reveals much about her childhood, later experiences and writing.
bibliographyPublished by Atlas:
For more on Mensje van Keulen's books for children see The Foundation for the Promotion and Translation of Dutch Literature (FPTDL)
The Last Guests
Realism, suspense and sinister humourMensje van Keulen manages to build an almost incessant tension into her writing. The reader has the constant feeling that something is about to happen: a crime, a murder, or some other calamity. There's only one remedy: to keep on reading. In her most recent novel, De laatste gasten (The Last Guests), the main character, Florrie, is raised by her aunt Lena, a hairdresser of easy virtue, adept at backhanders. Lena doesn't like Florrie, the words 'cunt bitch' are constantly on her lips when she sees her. When her aunt succumbs to a cerebral hemorrhage, Florrie feels no pity. She swallows back her rising euphoria though. 'I had figured out just as quickly that I shouldn't expect too much of "now everything will be different.?"' However, when she meets Alice Müller a new world seems to open up to her. Alice offers her room and board in d'Meihof, an artsy villa along the Amstel, the river that ends in Amsterdam. The genteel and artistic residents of d'Meihof represent a completely different social class than the former boxers and con artists of Florrie's past. That past moves to the background, although there is always a chance that Rudie Hus, with his cauliflower ear, will come to claim from Florrie what's rightfully his. The artistic group's dinner conversations form a brilliant and humorous part of the novel. Naturally the painters, historians, and philosophers turn out to be no better, morally, than the hairdressers and boxers. When the smug painter Fagel, who introduces himself as a cannibal, badmouths art historian Emile Waterman, the blue-blooded Mrs Stalpert believes him immediately. 'He wouldn't be the first Jew to lie.' Then a dog turns up, badly abused. Civilization is apparently only skin deep. The name Roald Dahl often shows up in reviews of Van Keulen's writing, a logical association, considering the mixture of realism, suspense, and sinister humour. In reading this novel, too, the comparison is appropriate, for example in the scene where Florrie wraps Lena's ashes up into two colourful little presents to be offered to a customer and an associate of her detested aunt.
That summer there was a heat wave that just wouldn’t quit. I had left my bedroom window open wide for the eighth or ninth night and was woken by a slurping noise. I thought it had finally begun to rain and the eaves couldn’t deal with it, but it turned out to be Lena who was crawling into my room behind a pillow. Only when I had turned on the light did I see that the pillow was her own body in the big T-shirt with the glittering heart, rolled up above her midriff.
|:: Mensje van Keulen is published by Atlas, Amsterdam ::|