21 May 2018, by SydneySchelvis
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Dutch writer Martin Michael Driessen’s "Rivers" (AmazonCrossing; 6/05/18) writes three intertwining novellas of longing, confliction, and the ever-changing nature of life – bound by the rivers that flow through each tale. Winner of the biggest Dutch literature prize, ECI, longlisted for the Fintro Literature Prize, and nominated for the Halewijn Prize, this book is a stunning work within Driessen’s long repertoire of novels and plays – each one a critical success. As these three stories lead the reader through both separate times and places, they also provide a fascinating look at different cultures and countries. In its timelessness, "Rivers" offers an intensive literary experience that opens up a world untethered by borders – past, present, and future – uninhibited by the powers of humankind.
Just as each rush of water constantly changes through the passage of the river, so is each tale that is touched by its natural power. On the storm-swollen Aisne in northeastern France, an alcoholic actor combats both his demons and nature’s tempests. Along the Main and Rhine in Germany, a kindhearted logger has but one wish: to travel with the lumber from his small Franconian hometown to the end of the river in the Netherlands, where it feeds into the majestic North Sea. In a bucolic vale in the French region of Brittany, two families, divided by religion and an unnamed stream, sustain a centuries-old feud. These three stories span countries and eras, but they are all connected by, and reliant on, the unpredictable power and languid beauty of rivers that give life as quickly as they take it away.
"Rivers" is a deeply powerful and fulfilling collection that spans generations and introduces the depth of inner conflict all through a natural and commanding force. Through Jonathan Reeder’s masterful translation, AmazonCrossing is thrilled to bring this Driessen’s collection to English readers this year. And, in 2019, AmazonCrossing will publish Driessen’s award-winning novel, "The Pelican".
Martin Michael Driessen is a Dutch opera and theater director, translator, and writer. He made his debut in 1999 with the novel "Gars", followed by "Vader van God" ("Father of God", 2012) and "Een Ware Held" ("A True Hero", 2013), both of which were broadly reviewed and nominated for literary prizes. In 2015 his novel "Lizzie", written with the highly acclaimed and prize-nominated poet Liesbeth Lagemaat, was published under the pseudonym Eva Wanjek. "Rivieren" ("Rivers") was awarded the prestigious ECI Literature Prize (formerly the AKO) in 2016. His latest novel, "De Pelikaan" ("The Pelican"), was published in 2017. His work has been translated into English, Italian, German, and Hungarian.
'This is a book of controlled greatness, with sparklingly vivid sentences and an omnipresent threat, and at the same time it has a soothing timelessness.'
—ECI JC, Louise O. Fresco
'Writing well is not so hard, but sometimes a writer shows you what great writing is. The rivers here are not gentle: the waters are cruel and unpredictable. Water gives and takes. With Driessen, that which seems unchanging is unreliable. That is most prominent in the final story, where the dispute between two families on opposite sides of a Brittany stream a half a century ago is being fought with a persistence that makes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem like a café quarrel. Anti-Semitism plays a role in the background of all the stories, but so do sexuality, death, nature, and love. And above all, the river is a metaphor for Martin Michael Driessen’s writing: fast-flowing, unpredictable, and at times stunningly beautiful.'
—Arjen Fortuin, NRC Handelsblad (4 stars)
'Three remarkable story pearls. Driessen gives water a dramatic, almost apocalyptic meaning in the outstanding Rivers.'
'If there is justice in the world, then Rivers will bring Driessen the fame he deserves.'
—Haarlems Dagblad (5 stars)
'Water continually plays the main role in this high-class book. Martin Michael Driessen is an original and unbridled storyteller. The best Driessen to date . . . Driessen’s vivid narrative power achieves true perfection.'
—De Volkskrant (4 stars)
'It is rare, unfortunately, to read a story with every sentence perfect. But here, they are perfect.'
'Each of the novellas feel much longer—like complete novels. Pierre and Adèle, my favorite, works so well because Driessen leaves a lot unsaid—a clear, epic story in supple, confident prose that leaves the reader space to dream. What more do you want?'
—De Groene Amsterdammer
'Three stories. Three times a world with a river as lifeline, as unbridgeable distance, as fodder for catharsis. Three times a small world mirrors the big one. Perhaps what they have most in common is the human desire to really reach one another. And all that in a language that grabs you with sentences you want to reread. The stories have a power you cannot escape from and language and images of great beauty.'