Stefan Hertmans / Stefan Hertmans – War and Turpentine

Stefan Hertmans – War and Turpentine

Stefan Hertmans – War and Turpentine

Rights sold

  • Text (ANZ)
  • FLTRP (China)
  • Fraktura (Croatia)
  • ArtPeople (Denmark)
  • Gallimard (France)
  • Hanser Berlin (Germany)
  • Kastaniotis (Greece)
  • Europa (Hungary)
  • Modan (Israel)
  • Marsilio (Italy)
  • Shorai-sha (Japan)
  • Antolog (Macedonia)
  • Pax (Norway)
  • Marginesy (Poland)
  • Dom Quixote (Portugal)
  • Heliks (Serbia)
  • Beletrina (Solvenia)
  • Protea Books (South-Africa)
  • Anagrama (Spain)
  • Norstedts (Sweden)
  • Alfa (Turkey)
  • Osnovy Publishing (Ukraine)
  • HarvillSecker (United Kingdom)
  • Pantheon (United States)


Read our sample translation of War and Turpentine


About the book

Shortly before his death in the 1980s, Stefan Hertmans’ grandfather gave him a couple of old notebooks. For years he was afraid to open them, but when he did he stumbled across some unexpected secrets. His grandfather’s life was marked by his impoverished childhood in pre-1900 Ghent, by gruesome experiences as a soldier on the front during WWI and by a great love who died young. For the rest of his life he converted his grief into tranquil paintings. In an attempt to get to the bottom of his grandfather’s life Hertmans wrote down the memories he had of the man. He quotes from the diaries and analyses the paintings. Hertmans tells the story with the kind of imaginative power only great writers possess, and in a form that leaves an indelible impression. War and Turpentine is a poignant search for a life that coincided with the tragic events of the 20th century and is an attempt to give a posthumous, almost mythical expression to that life.



The perceptive Hertmans has given voice not only to his grandfather but to an entire generation. **** – de Volkskrant

With War and Turpentine Stefan Hertmans has written one of the most moving books of the year. *****– de Standaard

I don’t want to give away all of this book’s secrets. But as Mr. Hertmans delves more deeply into his grandfather’s paintings, he finds things in them he did not expect to find. Some of these discoveries are very moving…. This serious and dignified book seems built to last. - Dwight Garner, New York Times

A book that seems to be aching to be called “Sebaldian” and earns the epithet glowlingly. War and Turpentine has all the markings of a future classic. – The Guardian

The novel is wonderful, full of astonishingly vivid moments of powerful imagery. (…) There are moving moments of mysterious beauty. (…) Hertmans brilliantly captures the intractable reality of a complex man.’ ‘ War and Turpentine has a quietly resonant personal epic quality that dwarfs all around it. **** – Sunday Times

A rich fictionalised memoir. (…) Death, destruction, obligation, duty… Urbain faces them all and yet he still finds joys in life. – Times

Hertmans demonstrates a painter’s eye for the smallest detail, gracefully melding art criticism and philosophy. Hertmans’s prose, with a deft translation from McKay, works with the same full palette as Urbain Martien’s paintings: vivid, passionate—and in the end, life-affirming. – Kirkus Reviews


Stefan Hertmans (b. 1951) has published novels, short story collections, essays and poetry. He received the triennial Flemish Poetry Prize in 1995. His novel War and Turpentine (2012) won both the ECI Literature Prize and the Flemish Cultural Award for Literature, and was shortlisted for the Libris Literature Prize, The Golden Book Owl and the Davidsfonds History Prize. The book will be translated into at least twenty languages, of which the English translation was selected by The New York Times as one of the 10 best books of 2016. Stefan received the prestigious E. du Perron Prize for his latest novel, The Convert (2016), in April.

© Michiel Hendryckx

Additional book information

  • Novel
  • ISBN 9789023494676
  • Number of pages: 314
  • World rights: De Bezige Bij
  • Price: € 15,00
  • English sample available