WAR AND TURPENTINE
Shortly before his death at the age of 90, Stefan Hertmans’ grandfather Urbain gave his grandson a set of notebooks. As Stefan began to read, he found himself drawn into a conversation across the centuries, as Urbain – so quiet and reserved in life – revealed his eloquence and his private passions on the page. Gradually, as he learned of his grandfather’s heroics in the First World War, the loss of his great love, and his later years spent seeking solace in art and painting, a portrait emerged of the grandfather he had never fully known. War and Turpentine is an exquisite, loving reconstruction of a man’s interior life, at once deeply personal and yet so evocative of many of his generation, affected by the long shadow of war. In beautiful, glimmering prose, Hertmans shows us how our experiences shape us all, and how, even in a life of sorrow and heartache, dignity can be found.