"In beautifully vivid writing, van den Brink describes the grace, ecstasy and agony of rowing, the miracle of its teamwork harmony." Washington Post
On the Water
978-0-8021-3895-8 • $11.00 • Paperback • May 2002
"There is in these pages a kind of miracle of writing. If you doubt the power of language, the force of words used with precision, if you doubt that literature can still be written in the wake of historythen read On the Water." Le Figaro (France)
In the golden Amsterdam summer of 1939 on a crystal river in Holland, two young oarsmen train with a rather mysterious German coach. Anton, a shy teenager from a lower-class family, is paired with David, self-assured and affluent, and suddenly into Anton's drab life there is the river, boats, woods, the flash of sunlight on the copper oarlocks, and his strong, silent, almost amorous understanding of David. All summer, a quiet obsession and magical bond forms between them as the intensity of their training and competitions increases. Yet up ahead, the war looms, and the menace of tragedy to come is a nearly silent record whose faint music plays through strenuous training sessions and majestic afternoons on the water.
"Brilliantly written," applauds Denmark's major newspaper, Politiken."Your heart literally beats with these two boys as they struggle their way to their goal." But the goal was not to be, and on the wintry eve of Holland's liberation five years later, Anton stands on the banks of his beloved river and remembers the majestic summer he spent with David. The story is told with the past and present flipping back and forth like oars, from the prewar summer on the water in 1939 to the same city five years later, stripped of life by the war. Now the boathouse is derelict and deserted, and the river reflects only bombers roaring across the sky from England to Nazi Germany. David has long since disappeared, and the starving city is a cruel, shadowy reminder of what once was. Spare, lyrical, and affecting, On the Water has been published in seven countries to critical acclaim and was nominated for several prestigious awards. Its unforgettably eloquent voice moves as smoothly and easily as the very water from which it grew.