War and Turpentine

War and Turpentine

Book - 2016
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Shortly before his death in 1981, Stefan Hertmans' grandfather gave him a couple of filled exercise books. Stories he'd heard as a child had led Hertmans to suspect that their contents might be disturbing, and for years he didn't dare to open them. When he finally did, he discovered unexpected secrets. His grandfather's life was marked by years of childhood poverty in late-nineteenth-century Belgium, by horrific experiences on the frontlines during the First World War and by the loss of the young love of his life. He sublimated his grief in the silence of painting. Drawing on these diary entries, his childhood memories and the stories told within Urbain's paintings, Hertmans has produced a poetic novelisation of his grandfather's story, brought to life with great imaginative power and vivid detail. War and Turpentine is an enthralling search for a life that coincided with the tragedy of a century - and a posthumous, almost mythical attempt to give that life a voice at last.
"In this vivid and masterful novel, a Flemish man reconstructs his grandfather's story--his life, loves, and art, all disrupted by the first World War--from the unflinching notebooks he left behind. Short Description War and Turpentine centers on two men distanced by time: a religious painter whose life is changed forever by World War One; and his grandson, a writer reckoning with his grandfather's story. The life of Urbain Martien--artist, soldier, survivor of the incomprehensible--lies contained in two notebooks written before his death in 1981. His grandson, a writer, imagines his way into the locked chambers of Urbain's memory: retouching church paintings as a boy, dodging death in an iron foundry, and, ultimately, fighting the war that altered the course of human history. There is Urbain's father, the lowly church painter; Urbain's wife, Gabrielle, his true love's sister; and Urbain's canvas, the ever-present reminder of the artist he wanted to be and the soldier he was forced to become. Wrestling with this story, the narrator straddles past and present, searching for a place in both. As artfully rendered as a Renaissance fresco, War and Turpentine paints the extraordinary story of one man's life and the echo of its impact resounding through the generations. Translated from the Dutch by David McKay"--
Publisher: Melbourne, Vic., The Text Publishing Company,, 2016.
ISBN: 9781925240207
Characteristics: 296 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm.
Additional Contributors: McKay, David 1973-,- Translator

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