An Untouched House

by

Translated from by

Published: Coming October 2018

Book Description

“In An Untouched House, a disillusioned WWII partisan soldier deserts and finds an abandoned house where he decides to stay. What unfolds is a strange and taut psychological tale of how individuals might choose to ignore the horrors of the outside world until they inevitably come crashing down around them. Ending in an explosion of violence that illuminates the true savagery of the human heart, this little stick of dynamite is less than 100 pages and damn near perfect.”

– Keaton Patterson, Brazos Bookstore

 

In this dark, unnerving work of wartime fiction, W. F. Hermans exposes humanity’s essential savagery, barely concealed by its mores and morals. The year is 1944, and a Dutch partisan chances on an abandoned estate, where he decides to take refuge during a lull in the hostilities. The house seems untouched by the war, a kind of haven, its ornament and grandeur intact (not to mention its walls), clothes and sheets to spare, a kitchen stocked with food and drink. He settles in, and begins to consider himself the owner. When the Nazis recapture the village and come knocking, they similarly assume the house to be his; they assume, also, its spare rooms, which they outfit as barracks.

It is all and well until the true owner and his wife return to their estate. Horrified at the thought of being caught in his subterfuge, our protagonist finds himself drawn into further deceit—and swept up in the violence that ensues.

Civilization comes face-to-face with brutality, truth meets the duplicity that has upended and challenged its certainty—Hermans’ prose searches for an order to the chaos and nihilism of war and life. What he cannot find is as telling as what he uncovers.

​[A] slim but potent war story​...Hermans doesn't deliver an explicit moral judgement on the narrator (indeed, he's sweetly reasonable throughout), but the thundering violence of the closing pages sends its own message. Fire, a suicide attempt, torture, and hanging are all shadowed by men killing with a cynical, mocking cruelty, stressing Hermans' point that dreams of peace can easily become entangled in violence. A dark wartime vision that evokes Koestler, Orwell, and Vonnegut.

Kirkus Reviews, starred


In An Untouched House, a disillusioned WWII partisan soldier deserts and finds an abandoned house where he decides to stay. What unfolds is a strange and taut psychological tale of how individuals might choose to ignore the horrors of the outside world until they inevitably come crashing down around them. Ending in an explosion of violence that illuminates the true savagery of the human heart, this little stick of dynamite is less than 100 pages and damn near perfect.

Keaton Patterson, Brazos Bookstore


An Untouched House is a small but unforgettable story about the schizophrenia of war. W.F. Hermans’s writing is implacably precise, always searching for truth, evocative but austere, and thoroughly addictive. Reader be warned: after An Untouched House you will want to read everything this great European author wrote!

Peter Terrin


A violent apotheosis without equal in modern literature. A sadistic universe that offers no room for escape.

Cees Nooteboom


Unsurpassed in its stylistic precision, unsettling in its language, dialogue, atmosphere, humour.

Harry Mulisch


[Hermans] granted me a silence in which I could hear this novel's voice in all its purity, in all the beauty of the unexplained and the unknown.

Milan Kundera


As disturbing and powerful as anything by Joseph Heller or Kurt Vonnegut.
Michael Faber, The Guardian


Bleak, hilarious, angry, ruthless . . . Hermans is as alarming as a snake in the breadbin . . . hugely entertaining.

The Scotsman


A literary tour de force.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


Watch this interview of W.F. Hermans, in Dutch.

Browse the Willem Frederik Hermans instituut page, and read a short biography of Hermans, in Dutch, here.

From The American Reader, read Jan Steyn’s “A Conversation with Translator David Colmer.”