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Man Booker International Prize Reviews: Part 2

War and Turpentine Stefan HertmansMy Man Booker International Prize shadowing duties continue with two more reviews this week. First up is War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans which has been translated from the Dutch by David McKay. Hertmans inherited his grandfather’s diaries after his death in 1981 and eventually used these personal memoirs to create a compelling narrative of his life as an ironworker, soldier and amateur painter. Born in 1891, the first part of the book focuses on Urbain Martien’s childhood in Ghent in a working class family with his father Franciscus and mother Céline. Hertmans also inserts himself into this part of the story as he unravels his family history in the present day. The second part is a more conventional narrative of Urbain’s experiences in the trenches following the German invasion of Belgium. The final part recounts the post-war years during which Martien sought solace in painting and a secret at the heart of his marriage to Gabrielle is revealed.
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