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King of Tuzla
‘No, Gijs never wanted a decoration. He wouldn’t talk about it. And yet he was head of the resistance. We just knew. Sometimes I delivered letters for him to…’
His father glanced at him and thought.
‘Arnhem, Ommen, Sneek, Assen… But that was only at the end of the war, you understand.’
His eyes grew moist. He didn’t even notice the fact that Tijmen’s mother kept butting in. Hard of hearing on one side. Handsome face, with artistic, white hair. Bald on top, of course, just like Tijmen. On holidays in guesthouses this sometimes created quite a commotion: he was mistaken for the CEO of a large company.
‘At the beginning you didn’t notice much of the war. My friend Thomas, though, hung the garden gates of all the Dutch Nazis from the lampposts. To be on the safe side, he hung up our gate as well. Gijs was furious.’
He laughed and his belly shook.
‘In the autumn of 1940 Gijs joined the resistance and at the beginning of 1941, as a cover, he became a crew man on a barge in Gendt. The brother of an insurance agent of father’s had a shipping business there.’
Tijmen asked about the names of the group members, but his mother jumped in first.
‘Vermeer, Vincent Geelhoed, Joop Salverda, the Van der Venne brothers, who were shot later…’
‘That’s right,’ said his father. ‘Robert, that was Vermeer’s first name. They always met at Joop’s place in Museum Kamstraat. That’s where the transmitter was too, if you ask me.’
His father awkwardly picked up his cup. Since the mild stroke his hands no longer functioned properly. His body retained liquid. As a result his hands looked even bigger than they were. Hands that had once hoisted Tijmen up for piggy-back rides.
‘The rest of the guys at home went into hiding, but then they were quite a bit older than me. One by one they went through the checkpoint with the suitcase put together by Feitsma. They simply got out again on the other side of the train and were looked after by the ladies Holland.’
‘Yes,’ said his mother, ‘the ones who ran the clothing store in Van Welderenstraat.’
His father talked right through her. He became claustrophobic in shops. It was in a clothes store he had suffered that stroke.
‘Only when the parachute landings started did the penny drop. The Americans had a uniform with them for Gijs, with the royal motto ‘Je Maintiendrai’ on it. And on the Tuesday after the landings Joop Salverda came to see Father. For the first time I was allowed to stay while they talked. Even Granny had to leave the room when someone from the resistance came by. “The bridge has been saved,” said Joop. That was the day Joop was killed. That week I put on my scout uniform for the first time in four years.’
His eyes were glistening behind the thick glasses; there was a green deposit between the lens and the frame. Tijmen remembered his father’s stories about the jamboree in Vogelenzang. How he had been entrusted with the prestigious job of lighting a camp-fire. It was raining. He had put petrol-soaked rags among the branches. The burst of flame had been seen by all. At this point his father always imitated the sound: ‘Whoosh!’ How the public had jeered – he wasn’t bothered. Later he had given his scout hat away to a boy who lived nearby. To this day he regretted it.
‘Why do you want to hear all this?’
‘No special reason,’ said Tijmen, ‘just to know.’
‘No,’ sighed his father, ‘Gijs would never accept a decoration.’
Interested? So why not buy King of Tuzla
Number of pages: 210
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What was said about King of Tuzla
About the English edition
'If you want proof that literature has the power to change lives then this illustrates it on every level.' - Simon Quicke on his blog inside books
'The novel is worth reading for these cameos alone'
'with reflection the novel ends with more gravitas than a thousand cheap plot twists could give you' - Watching the Coast blog
‘King of Tuzla is a thinly-fictionalised account of the Bosnian War, infused with pathos and wit and the blackest of comedy.’
‘It is this empathy for the victims, as well as the witnesses, that makes King of Tuzla both a brutally honest coming-of-age novel and an important addition to the literature of modern war.’ - BookTrust Translated Fiction
‘King of Tuzla is a thought-provoking story about the conflict in Bosnia. The author uses beautiful prose to create a vivid feeling of the time and place, and an intense emotional narrative about the realities of war.’ - Bookish Magpie
‘In King of Tuzla Arnold Jansen op de Haar has successfully used fiction to tell a greater truth.’ - Emma Lee's Blog
‘King of Tuzla tells the story of service in the Balkans vividly, as only a soldier who served there can relay. The book is a must for the library of any military enthusiast or historian. - Stephen Phillips Blog
‘The book is a cracking read and I flew through it in a couple of days. Arnold Jansen op de Haar has obviously written this book from the heart...’
‘What Arnold has wonderfully done is included little stories from the locals about their lives and the effect the wars have had on them.’ - Winstonsdad’s Blog
‘A book which hits us with the reality of war’
‘Well written, the narrative has quite eloquent qualities and makes it very easy to picture the characters and the war-ravaged former Yugoslavia.’ - Contrary Life
‘The characterisation of Tijmen and his fellow officers is effective. Tijmen himself is an intriguing character...’
‘There are ... some lovely images and gorgeous rhythms ... this poignant description of Tijmen’s flat: "Eight years in the same flat, where time’s mechanism had jammed. No-one had been loved there."’ - Whispering Gums Blog
Also promoted on Novel Suggestions.
About the Dutch edition
‘A great addition to Dutch literature.’ – Hans Warren in several regional newspapers
‘A great debut.’ – Trouw (main quality Dutch newspaper)
Background informationTuzla Today & the Royal Military Academy
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