The Twin (novel)

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The Twin
File:The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker.jpg
The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker
Author Gerbrand Bakker
Original title Boven is het stil
Translator David Colmer
Country Netherlands
Language Dutch
Publication date
Published in English

The Twin (Boven is het stil) is a novel by Dutch writer Gerbrand Bakker. It won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 2010, making Bakker the first Dutch writer to win the award, one of the world's richest literary awards, with a 100,000 prize.[1][2] Boven is het stil was published in 2006 and its English translation, titled The Twin, followed in 2008.[1] The novel was translated from Dutch by David Colmer. The novel's original Dutch title could be translated as "Upstairs, everything is quiet".


In 2002 Bakker was hiking through mountains while on holiday in Corsica when he first thought up the book.[2] He thought about a son who might "do something terrible to his father" but was left "frustrated" when the idea failed to progress any further until one day he began to write at random.[2]

Plot summary

The novel follows the plight of Helmer, who resides on a Dutch farm with his father.[3] His twin brother, Henk, died accidentally some thirty years earlier, and his mother some years later. The relationship between father and son is strained, as Helmer always thought that his father preferred his twin brother and wanted him to take over the farm. Helmer never married and was tied down to the farm all those years, needing to milk the dairy cows twice a day, every day for decades on end. His father is now dying, and Helmer encounters his twin brother's former girlfriend, who asks him to help her take care of her teenage son, also named Henk, who is shiftless. The unexpected arrival of a third person in the house changes things and forces Helmer to reflect about his relationship with his father and his dead brother, and to think about what he wants to do with the rest of his life once his father passes away.[3]

Major themes

The Twin is fundamentally about themes such as loneliness and isolation and the weight of duty.[3]


Amsterdam, The Hague, Utrecht and Eindhoven libraries all nominated The Twin for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the book was declared the winner at the Mansion House in Dublin on 17 June 2010.[2][4] It defeated 155 titles from more than 40 countries to achieve the award.[5] Lord Mayor of Dublin Emer Costello said Bakker was one of the many "eminent novelists to win this award" and said "this beautifully written Dutch novel will come to the attention of readers worldwide, who might otherwise never have come across it".[6] Bakker, instead of giving a speech, played a tape recording of "Waar is de zon?", the Dutch entry in Eurovision Song Contest 1994 (which also occurred in Dublin).[1]

It was the third consecutive debut novel to win the award, following Man Gone Down and De Niro's Game.[2]

J. M. Coetzee describes The Twin as "a novel of restrained tenderness and laconic humour".[3]

Anne Fine said the book "convinces from first page to last".[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Battersby, Eileen (18 June 2010). "Dutch writer wins Impac award". The Irish Times. Irish Times Trust. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Flood, Alison (17 June 2010). "Dutch gardener reaps Impac prize". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 17 June 2010. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Spain, John (18 June 2010). "Debut novelist snaps up €100,000 literary award". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  4. Pressley, James (17 June 2010). "Dutch Author Gerbrand Bakker Wins EU100,000 Irish Book Contest". Bloomberg. Retrieved 17 June 2010. 
  5. "Dutch writer wins world's biggest literature prize". 18 June 2010. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  6. "IMPAC Award goes to Dutch novelist's debut". CBC News. 18 June 2010. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 

External links