War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans
A novel

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It’s this confluence of forces that moves the reader forward. In a world of novels with overdetermined, linear plotlines — their chapters like so many boxcars on a freight train — “War and Turpentine” delivers a blast of narrative fresh air.
-NY Times

Synopsis

Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017
A New York Times Top 10 Best Book of the Year
An Economist Best Book of the Year

The life of Urbain Martien—artist, soldier, survivor of World War I—lies contained in two notebooks he left behind when he died in 1981. In War and Turpentine, his grandson, a writer, retells his grandfather’s story, the notebooks providing a key to the locked chambers of Urbain’s memory.

With vivid detail, the grandson recounts a whole life: Urbain as the child of a lowly church painter, retouching his father’s work;dodging death in a foundry; fighting in the war that altered the course of history; marrying the sister of the woman he truly loved; being haunted by an ever-present reminder of the artist he had hoped to be and the soldier he was forced to become. Wrestling with this tale, the grandson straddles past and present, searching for a way to understand his own part in both. As artfully rendered as a Renaissance fresco, War and Turpentine paints an extraordinary portrait of one man’s life and reveals how that life echoed down through the generations.

(With black-and-white illustrations throughout)
 

About Stefan Hertmans

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STEFAN HERTMANS is an internationally acclaimed Flemish author. For more than twenty years he was a professor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Ghent, where he wrote novels, poems, essays, and plays. War and Turpentine was awarded the prestigious AKO Literature Prize in 2014.Translated from the Dutch by David McKay.
Author Residence: Ghent, Belgium
Author Hometown: Ghent, Belgium
 
Published August 9, 2016 by Pantheon. 305 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for War and Turpentine
All: 4 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 0

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Dominic Smith on Aug 17 2016

It’s this confluence of forces that moves the reader forward. In a world of novels with overdetermined, linear plotlines — their chapters like so many boxcars on a freight train — “War and Turpentine” delivers a blast of narrative fresh air.

Read Full Review of War and Turpentine: A novel | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Aug 04 2016

Urbain Martien was a man of another time. This serious and dignified book is old-fashioned, too, in the pleasant sense that it seems built to last.

Read Full Review of War and Turpentine: A novel | See more reviews from NY Times

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Dominic Smith on Aug 17 2016

The result of this struggle is a masterly book about memory, art, love and war. Hertmans is a Belgian novelist, poet and essayist who writes in Dutch, and in “War and Turpentine” he has found a way to meld the various strands of his professional prowess into a unified whole.

Read Full Review of War and Turpentine: A novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Neel Mukherjee on Jul 02 2016

Urbain considered himself and his life ordinary. More than 20 years after his death, he has been given a kind of immortality by his grandson, an extraordinary afterlife that he never could have imagined. War and Turpentine has all the markings of a future classic.

Read Full Review of War and Turpentine: A novel | See more reviews from Guardian

Reader Rating for War and Turpentine
75%

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