Janwillem van de Wetering dies at 77
Here's what I wrote about Van de Wetering back in this blog's first post, where I listed the books among my favorite crime fiction from beyond my borders:
This Dutch author has been a businessman, a world traveler, a reserve Amsterdam police officer, and a student at a Zen monastery in Kyoto. All, especially the last three, figure prominently in this series, which includes 14 novels and two overlapping short-story collections.Van de Wetering wrote several books about his experiences as a Buddhist, and his chronicle of his life in a Kyoto monastery, The Empty Mirror, is refreshingly down-to-earth about the pleasant and the harsh aspects of a would-be monk's life. Van de Wetering's other work included a biography of the Dutch author and diplomat Robert van Gulik, and Inspector Saito's Small Satori, a book of intensely philosophically minded crime stories.
Detective twosomes are a nickel a dozen; Van de Wetering offers the only three-headed protagonist I can think of: the grumpy Adjutant Henk Grijpstra, the younger and sometimes vain Sgt. Rinus de Gier, and their unnamed commissaris, or chief, an elderly mentor with sometimes excruciating knee pains who is a sly collaborator and a kind of guru to Grijpstra and de Gier. Start with Hard Rain, in part for the larger role it gives the commissaris.
Van de Wetering has an interesting approach to translation: He does his own, and he regards the results as versions, rather than translations, of the original. The one book in the series that I read in Dutch has slightly different chapter divisions from the English version and an opening chapter with more physical description. And the first in the series, An Outsider in Amsterdam, reflects the Dutch language's more frequent use of the present perfect where English would use the simple past. This results in occasional odd sentences such as "I wonder if he has done it."
Van de Wetering was indirectly responsible for the creation of this blog. I was dating a Dutch woman a few years ago, so I took special notice of An Outsider in Amsterdam. I soon read the rest of the Grijpstra and de Gier books, most in editions published by Soho Crime. That was my entrée to Soho's fine line of international crime fiction and to interational crime fiction in general. The rest is blogging history.
Click here for an appreciation and here for Van de Wetering's bibliography.
© Peter Rozovsky 2008