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One more time the stage is set for Anna. Sensitive new novel by Arthur Japin

A sensitive novel about being allowed to be yourself, that's the new book What silence wants by Arthur Japin. He tells the tragic life story of Anna Witsen, whose career as a singer was broken in bud.

Who remembers them, the nineteenth-century writers and artists who became known as the Tachtigers? Poets such as Willem Kloos, Albert Verwey, Frederik van Eeden, Herman Gorter and Jacques Perk, as well as artists such as George Breitner and Isaac Israëls wanted nothing less than to revolutionise Dutch art and literature. Painter Willem Witsen did not become the most famous of the bunch, but he was the (financial) lynchpin of the Tachtigers. The Witsen House in Amsterdam, where he resided for a time, is still a place where writers and artists can live and work today.

Gloss roller

This famous and important company does not play the lead role in bestselling author Arthur Japin's new novel, but it does provide the captivating backdrop. In What silence wants - the wonderful title is taken from Verses by Herman Gorter - stars Willem's sister Anna Witsen. Almost a decade ago, Japin already dedicated a play to her, but now he delves deeper into the psyche of this talented singer, whose career was broken in the bud. He wrote the novel in the impressionistic style of the time.

Anna Witsen is a sensitive, talented woman at a time when women were expected to be wives and housewives. Her father and sister prevented her from studying at the conservatory and pursuing a career on stage. And when Anna gets on a train to Germany to visit her singing teacher - a married man she is in love with - she is locked up in an asylum. Then a long time later, when she does get another chance to shine, the negative undercurrents get the better of Anna, and she fails.

If you What silence wants believes, Anna was perhaps the purest exponent of the ideas the Tachtigers stood for. According to Willem Kloos, art had to be the very individual expression of the very individual emotion. But while the writers, as their success increased, increasingly put all kinds of other interests before their art, the fiery desire in Anna could not be tamed, with fatal consequences. In this stirring novel, Japin brings her to life to give her the stage she so deserved but never got.

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Arthur Japin, What silence wants (327 p.), De Arbeiderspers, €24.99

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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