My Father's War by Adriaan van Dis
A Novel (New Press International Fiction Series)

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My Father’s War is the gripping story of a son’s struggle to understand his family’s wartime experience in a Japanese concentration camp, and to come to terms with its effects on him. Born in Holland after the Second World War, the boy grows up as an outsider in the midst of his part-Indonesian family. Living in isolation among the dunes of coastal Holland, he looks on as his father and sisters are mocked for their “yellow skin,” endures the bizarre and brutal military training his father puts him through, and wonders about the hardships his family suffered but never mentioned.

Years later, the middle-aged son begins a quest into his family’s past in Indonesia, and the origins of his father’s strange mix of charm and cruelty. Despite his sisters’ denial and his mother’s evasiveness, details surface about the incredible endurance of his father, one of the few survivors of torture in the camp. Returning always to the dunes of his childhood, the man comes to a final acceptance of his father and a new understanding of their relationship.

Reminiscent of Harry Mulisch’s The Assault for its moving exploration of the indirect effects of World War II, My Father’s War also brings to mind Philip Roth’s Patrimony in its unblinking search for understanding between a hard father and a sensitive son.


About Adriaan van Dis

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Adriaan van Dis, born in Holland in 1946, is a leading Dutch writer and popular television show host. He is the author of a number of books, both fiction and nonfiction, of which this is the first to be translated into English.
Published January 1, 1994 by THE NEW PRESS. 272 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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My Father's War by Adriaan van Dis, translated by Ina Rilke 308pp, Heinemann, £12.99 Of the many forgotten corners of the second world war, one still obscure in the anglophone world was that fought, and lost, by Dutch settlers in Indonesia against the Japanese occupation.

Apr 17 2004 | Read Full Review of My Father's War: A Novel (New...


Life growing up in Holland with a violent father is hard but glimpses of camps in the Dutch East Indies, and snapshots of conflict, explain, if not excuse, Justin's bitter cruelties toward his family and his son in particular.

Feb 02 2004 | Read Full Review of My Father's War: A Novel (New...

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