Gerard Reve (1923) Dutch author

There is hardly any high school student in the Netherlands who has not (whether voluntarily or unwillingly) read one of Gerard Reve's books. Together with Harry Mulisch, Jan Wolkers and Willem Frederik Hermans, Reve is considered one of the four most important and influential Dutch authors of the 20th century.

Gerard Reve was born as Kornelis van het Reve on December 14, 1923 in the Betondorp neighbourhood in Amsterdam. Johan Cruyff would later grow up there as a child as well. Among his first jobs, he was court reporter for the Dutch newspaper Het Parool. He married poet Hanny Michaelis in 1948, they went to live in London, but they separated in 1956, after which Reve returned to his native country.

On November 1, 1947, Reve had published his first and best novel: De Avonden (The Evenings), describing the last ten days of 1946 through the eyes of office clerk Frits van Egters. De Avonden is a story of a petty bourgeois, distressing life without perspective and without real human interaction. Many critics of the time were shocked by the realistic dreariness:

"humanly degrading prose"

His Werther Nieland (1949) described the world of an eleven-year-old who does not understand anything of the reality around him, thus creating his own dream world in which secrets are important and killing animals some kind of escape.

Back in the Netherlands in 1957, he met a man called Wilhelm Johann Schuhmacher. They started to live together. Reve would call him Wimie in his books, as most of Reve's lovers figure in his works under one or another pseudonym. In 1964, he moved to Friesland to share a home with his new partner Willem Bruno van Albeda, also known as Teigetje (Dutch for Tigger). Some time later, the duo would form a ménage a trois together with H. van Maanen (Woelrat - water rat).

Reve has always been a highly controversial person. In the same year that he converted to Roman Catholic religion (1966), Reve was prosecuted because of blasphemy: his book Nader tot U (Closer to Thee) describes himself having sexual intercourse with God who has been reincarnated into a donkey. When he was awarded the massive PC Hooft Prize in 1969, he kissed female minister of Culture Marga Klompé during the ceremony. In that time such a familiar behaviour towards those in power was very unusual. Reve coped with his psychological struggle due to his homosexual fantasies mixed with his religious conversion by writing letters, for instance to his first gay lover, as his Brieven aan Wimie (Letters to Wimie), published in 1980, show. All of Reve's novels and other works have a strong autobiographical character.

Notwithstanding controversy, Reve was knighted in 1974. In that year he moved to France, where he lived with Joop Schafthuizen (in his books referred to as Matroos Vos or Matroos Vosch - Sailor Fox), who is still his partner and agent. In Moeder en Zoon (Mother and son, 1980), Reve described his conversion to Catholicism and his love for Matroos Vos. 'Revistic' sexual fantasies (clean boys who have to suffer) and religion (especially the worshipping of Mary) became the main theme of many of his works in the 1970's and 1980's. He played with different styles a lot: on one page solemn and sober, but on the next trivial, cynical and obscene. His droomjongen (dream boy) returned in a lot of his stories.

The pattern of belief and sexuality continued in Reve's opus dei (according to himself at least) of 1996: Het Boek van Violet en Dood (The Book of Violet and Death). Between the lines he evened the score with some fellow authors in a comical way, including Rudy Kousbroek, Remco Campert, Renate Rubinstein and Maarten Biesheuvel.

My own personal favourite Reve book is Wolf, a kind of surrealistic fairytale, of course curling around Reve's much-loved theme: homosexual adventures of adolescent boys. I read it at high school for my literature curriculum.

Other people talking about Gerard Reve:

"The word LOVE in his book titles doesn't mean anything. It has only to do with his rancid urgence to stick his dick in any hole he encounters "
Dutch author Gerrit Komrij
"This is a masterpiece in its kind. Remind the term 'in its kind'. Because this kind is simply horrible"
Dutch author Godfried Bomans discussing De avonden
"Reve always makes me sick, I admire that in him"
Dutch politician and literary critic Aad Nuis
"Gerard van het Reve has become a catholic! That's like someone hiding under a big umbrella that he has perforated the minute before"
Dutch comedian Wim Kan


  • De Avonden; een winterverhaal (1947)
  • Werther Nieland (1949)
  • De ondergang van de familie Boslowits (1950)
  • The Acrobat and Other Stories (1956)
  • Verzameld werk (1956)
  • Tien Vrolijke Verhalen (1961
  • Commissaris Fennedy (1962)
  • Op Weg naar het Einde (1963)
  • Vier Wintervertellingen (1963)
  • Herfstdraden (1966)
  • Nader tot U (1966)
  • Vier Pleidooien (1971)
  • De Taal der Liefde (1972)
  • Het Zingend Hart (1973)
  • Lieve Jongens (1973)
  • Het Lieve Leven (1974)
  • Ik had hem lief (1975)
  • Een Circusjongen (1975)
  • Brieven aan Kandidaat-Katholiek A. 1962-1969 (1976)
  • Oud en Eenzaam (1978)
  • Een Eigen Huis (1979)
  • Moeder en Zoon (1980)
  • Brieven aan Wimie 1959-1963 (1980)
  • De vierde man (1981)
  • Brieven aan Bernard S. 1965-1975 (1981)
  • Brieven aan Josine M. 1959-1975 (1981)
  • Brieven aan Simon C. 1971-1975 (1982)
  • Wolf (1983)
  • Brieven aan Wim B. (1983)
  • Schoon Schip 1945-1984 (1984)
  • De stille Vriend (1984)
  • Brieven aan Frans P. 1965-1969 (1984)
  • Roomse Heisa (1985)
  • Brieven aan geschoolde arbeiders 1959-1981 (1985)
  • Brieven aan Ludo P 1968-1975 (1986)
  • Klein gebrek geen bezwaar (1986)
  • Het geheim van Louis Couperus (1987)
  • Bezorgde Ouders (1988)
  • Brieven aan mijn lijfarts 1963-1980 (1991)
  • Brieven van een aardappeleter (1993)
  • Op zoek (1995)
  • Zondagmorgen zonder zorgen (1995)
  • Het Boek van Violet en Dood (1996)
  • Ik bak ze bruiner (1996)
  • Brieven aan Matroos Vosch 1975 -1992 (1997)
  • Met niks begonnen (1997)
  • Het hijgend hert (1998)
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