In the Netherlands Jan Wolkers was a very beloved writer, sculptor and painter. On friday October 19th he died in his sleep at the age of 81 in his house on the Dutch island Texel.
Jan Wolkers started his career as a sculptor. He really became famous as a writer. A very well-known novel he wrote was Turkish Delight, which has been translated in languages all over the world. In the beginning of his career as a writer he caused a lot of turbulence in Dutch society. This had to do with the fact he has a very open and blunt style of writing about sex. Wolkers grew up in an orthodox Christian family. In his books he attacked the madness and hypocrisy of this social environment. This also made a lot of people angry. He wrote about love, death, sex and nature. He was a passionate lover of nature. He published 44 books and was honoured for his work with the P.C. Hooft Prijs, the highest literary order in the Netherlands, for his complete works.
Jan Wolkers was one of the Great Four, as they were called in Holland. The Great Four were four writers considered the most successful writers after World War II: Jan Wolkers, Harry Mullish, Gerard Reve and Willem Frederik Hermans.
Next to his work as a writer he always continued working as a sculptor and painter.
I would like to share an anecdote with you. Jan Wolkers lived on the island Texel. Now and then he gave guided tours through the nature of the island for school classes. I once met a young women who had attended such a tour. She told me they were walking through the dunes. Every 15 minutes or so Wolkers stopped and dug up a bottle of red wine, which he had hidden there. He uncorked the bottle, swallowed a generous amount of the red fluid, wiped his mouth and said: ‘Yes, nature is beautiful, but incredibly boring.’ Then he would hide the bottle again.
I have always loved Wolkers very much. He was a man with a great loving heart and a fantastic sense of humour. He was honest and he was himself. Also he was a great artist and writer. Now that I am writing this, I sense that I will really miss him.
If you want to see some of his work as a painter, click here
If you want to read a biography in English, click here
Some images of Wolkers in his atelier you will find here
I want to thank Jan Wolkers for bringing so much beauty into my life and for always being a torch of light in Dutch society.