Thursday, September 9, 2010
The Twin of this novel is Helmer. He's a middle aged bachelor farmer; he lives with a bullying father. Father is finally dying; Helmer's been half-dead most of his life - we're persuaded by Helmer this is because Henk, his twin, drowned as a teenager. I, however, am inclined to believe it's Helmer's repressed homosexuality which causes him to suffer a life of such awful emptiness and masochism every tiny action and interaction is recorded as though it has painstaking significance:
The donkeys are waiting for me even though I don't go out to them every evening. I've left the light on and it casts a broad track into the yard. My very own crib. They snort when I enter the shed. I give them a couple of winter carrots and a scoop of oats. Their breath billows up out of the trough as a cold cloud. I sit on a bale of hay and wait for them to finish feeding.
I, I, I. Poor bloke. Father sent away the farmhand with whom Helmer was falling in love; now he doesn't even have a dog to cuddle up with in bed.
Although The Twin is a Dutch novel, set on a farm in the waterlands of Holland, the story of gay repressed Helmer has universal appeal: twenty years ago when I was a student our Faculty of Agricultural Science produced a magazine: Ceres was full of wise chat and in jokes; photographs and fun. And a touching and memorable poem about falling in love, written by 'A gay Ag'....