Jan Arends / Jan Arends – Keefman

Jan Arends – Keefman

Jan Arends – Keefman

About the book

The mental institution as model for society as a whole. Keefman is the highlight of a small, but high-quality oeuvre, which has received praise from critics and readers alike, and which has lost none of its power of expression.

Keefman is Jan Arends’s classic short story collection in which the central characters move on the fringes of society: the psychiatric patient, the recluse, the schlemiel. About the heartrending title story in which a resident of a mental institution comes out with a withering tirade against his psychiatrist, Rudy Kousbroek wrote: ‘For an entire oeuvre of the quality of Keefman I wouldn’t find a Nobel Prize excessive.’

It is not too much of a stretch to call him “mad”, and even “genius" is perfectly appropriate for a change. – hp / de tijd

The stories are raw, angry, intelligent, and they allow us to empathize with people who at one and the
same time ask for help and slap away every outstretched hand. [...] This prose hurts, it moves, and most importantly: it makes a lasting impression. – author Thomas Heerma van Voss, de correspondent


Jan Arends (1925-1974) wrote a small body of work that consists of both prose and poetry. Both in his prose and his poems he combines a suffocating, desolate atmosphere with unique wit. On the day that his collection Lunchpauzegedichten (Lunchtime Poems) appeared, he committed suicide by jumping out of the window of his room in Amsterdam. Arends suffered from bouts of severe depression for much of his life and with Keefman (1972) he wrote one of his overwhelming testimonies about it. When he was not in mental institutions Arends was by turns an author, a copywriter for advertising bureaus and a house servant to older women.

© Philip Mechanicus