It is the 22nd December 1946. In post-war Amsterdam, the 23-year-old office clerk Frits van Egters still lives with his parents. Their conversations centre around the radio programme, reports they read in the newspapers and the question where the key to the attic is. When he is not at home or doing his boring and undemanding office job, Frits spends his evening with his friends around town. Ten days in his life, ten days until the new year arrives and with the new year maybe a new chance in life.
Gerard Reve, who published “The Evenings” (“De avonden”) first under his pseudonym Simon van het Reve, today is considered one of the great writers of post-war Dutch literature. The strength of this novel definitely lies in its detailed description of the family life that the already grown up son has to endure. In the years after the war, life did not offer you much, especially when you did not earn a lot of money. So evening after evening, day after day, it all seems to repeat itself, life is dull and boring. Christmas comes and goes unnoticed, one of the most important Christian celebrations, but in those times, there is no place for such a thing. New Year’s Eve might bring a change – but again, Frits is stuck in the parental home waiting for the clock to strike twelve. He has survived another year, but what does life have to offer that makes it worth living?
Why the book has been praised so much is obvious. Nevertheless, I had some problems with the story. I could not really bond with Frits or maybe the author is just too strong in creating an atmosphere which is not easy to endure. Boredom, isolation, frustration – but that just may have been the reality of many young people after WW2. Without any glimmer of hope, this story is no easy read to enjoy yourself with.