The Hormone Factory (De hormoonfabriek)
Saskia Goldschmidt, 2012
264 pages, 82.000 words
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Note from the author
Review in The Lancet
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For full English manuscript or more information, contact rieck@cossee.com
The Hormone Factory |
De hormoonfabriek

Saskia Goldschmidt

This title was chosen for the Spring selection of Ten Books from Holland by the Dutch Foundation for Literature. Click here to read the article.

Whilst writing her successful debut Obligatory Happy, Saskia Goldschmidt encountered a storyline that tickled her imagination. In the 1930’s a distant family member of her set out to extract hormones like testosterone from the offal of the meat factory. With this idea he was the founder of an international pharmaceutical company. But by doing random tests on the girls from the factory they were balancing on the edge of entrepreneurship and ethics.

Love and envy between brothers, conflicting interests between commerce and science, factory girls stuffed with estrus hormones and testosterone driven guys - The Hormone Factory is a chilling story, inspired by historical facts. In which the views on good and evil are clouded by the lust for progress.

The successful entrepreneur Mordechai de Paauw - Motke for friends - looks back on his life while lying in a bed with an iron bedside, vaguely resembling the cages in which his lab rats were held. He realizes that he has failed to lead a respectable life.

He and his twin brother Aron started a breathtaking project in the 1920's. With the help of the famous professor and pharmacologist Rafaël Levine they established a company that processes the waste meat of Motkes abattoir to develop hormone preparations.

The starting conditions aren't favorable. The catholic country town is struck by crime and poverty. And the rise of fascism in the 1930's makes the air thick with a toxic mixture. But Motke carries on and it seems that no prices is too high for him. But when WOII has ended and everyone looks back, it appears that no one has made it through this period without getting a few scars.

Praise for The Hormone Factory:

'A story written with color and momentum.' - de Volkskrant

'A beautiful novel about the proud tyrant De Pauw, that is based on imagination, but probably contains a lot more truth than we would like.' - Brabants Dagblad

'Goldschmidt's tone is fascinating, picturesque and humorous. The fantastic formulated passage about the existence of God is hilarious. She has written a enthralling story in which she seduces the reader with beautiful sentences.' - Literair Nederland

'If you want to you can read The Hormone Factory as a indictment against the ruthless capitalist. If you don't care for a message you can induldge yourself in a villain's story. A villain you wouldn't want to get close to, but you'll be mesmerized by his last words until death is merciful on him.' - Recensieweb ****

'The success of The Hormone Factory isn't just Motkes fascinating wickedness. But he is the heart of this exciting story in which the birth of modern medical science, post-war prosperity and science and commerce bargaining come together. It makes Motke a classical bad guy. He doesn't settle for less and creates changes, for better or for worse.' - 8weekly.nl

'A well written novel. Full of shame you read the motives of a successful entrepreneur who abuses his power shamelessly. He often gets away with it but not at home, which he finds out too late.' - Krings Book sellers ****

'A fascinating novel about the rise of a factory that isn't keen on honoring values. A pretty exciting story that you want to finish in one reading. A fetching story, also for young readers.' - Scholieren.com

'A strong book. Goldschmidt has a fine style of writing and knows how to build a good story. She also knows how to create good and credible characters. A true recommendation.' - de Leesfabriek

DTV (Germany) - Die Glücksfabrik

Mordechai de Paauw blickt, 97-jährig, auf sein Leben zurück: desillusioniert, überheblich, hilflos. Ende eines Titans. Als er in den dreißiger Jahren auf die Idee kam, Testosteron aus Wurstzipfeln zu gewinnen, war das genial. Als die aus der Idee hervorgegangene pharmazeutische Fabrik begann, das Produkt an ahnungslosen Fabrikarbeiterinnen zu testen, wurde es monströs. De Paauw besaß kaum Schulbildung, war jedoch schon als sehr junger Mann Direktor der Familienfirma, Hollands größter Fleischfabrik. Tatkräftig und kühn, aber durchdrungen von unbedingtem Erfolgswillen instrumentalisierte er jeden, der ihm und seinen Plänen von Nutzen sein konnte - den wehrlosen Bruder, den aus Nazi-Deutschland emigrierten Wissenschaftler Rafael Levine, in dem unschwer Ernst Laqueur zu erkennen ist, und alle, deren Existenz von der Firma abhing.

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Gallimard (France) - La fabrique d'hormones

Motke, de son vrai nom Mordechai de Paauw, aimerait bien mourir. À quatre-vingt-dix-sept ans, il regrette le temps où son corps était encore le moteur de tous ses plaisirs, et il se fait alors le narrateur d’une existence hors du commun. Jeune homme, il est contraint de reprendre l’abattoir familial, mais son ambition le pousse à transformer la florissante entreprise en faisant appel à Rafaël Levine, un scientifique d’origine juive-allemande, pour lui adjoindre un laboratoire. Utiliser les déchets de l’abattoir pour procéder à l’extraction de l'insuline, puis d’autres hormones sexuels, voilà le projet industriel de Motke. Le succès est au rendez-vous, l’argent coule à flots. Grisé et doté d’une libido indomptable, Motke ne parvient pas à rester fidèle à son épouse Rivka et n’hésite pas à exercer une sorte de droit de cuissage sur ses ouvrières. Mais le drame se noue quand il pousse son propre frère jumeau Aron à s’administrer des doses de plus en plus élevées de testostérone…

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The Other Press (USA) - The Hormone Factory

A disturbing story that describes how the alliance between science and capitalism can lead to disaster when the people in charge lose track of their humanity. Mordechai de Paauw was the Dutch cofounder and CEO of the first pharmaceutical company to invent the contraceptive pill and hormonal treatments. Hitler’s invasion of Holland and the threat he poses to the survival of De Paauw’s family and the Jewish scientists working for him doesn’t affect De Paauw’s urge to test his treatments on his female workers and exploit them sexually. Even after the war, which he survives unscathed, De Paauw will continue his mischief until a catastrophe that he himself couldn’t have imagined allows him to come to his senses long enough to tell us his story. The Hormone Factory weaves questions of scientific integrity, sibling rivalry, and sex into a narrative that is as troubling as it is thought provoking.

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Protea Boekhuis (South Africa) - Die hormoonfabriek

Love and envy between brothers, conflicting interests between commerce and science, factory girls stuffed with hormones and testosterone driven guys –  Die hormoonfabriek (The Hormone Factory) is a chilling story, inspired by historical facts. In which the views on good and evil are clouded by the lust for progress.

Click here for more information

Other titles by Saskia Goldschmidt:
> The Hormone Factory
Obligatory Happy
The Vintage Queen
Rights sold to:
- Bulgaria (Lettera)
- France (Gallimard)
- Germany (dtv)
- UK (Saraband)
- US (world English) (The Other Press)
- South Africa (Protea Boekhuis)
- Turkey (Bence Kitap)
- Film Talents (film rights)
Longlisted for:
- Euregio Literatur Prize 2016
- the Libris Literature Prize 2013

1887 Zwanenberg Slaughterhouse and Factories is founded in Oss (provincial town in the south of Holland) by the twin brothers Van Zwanenberg

1923 Saal van Zwanenberg establishes Organon to develop new medicine from meat waste

1925 Chemists Ernst Laqueur and Jacques van Oss join Zwanenberg at Organon

1930 Organon starts a series of successful discoveries. They have international success with applying hormones in medicine, leading to the birth of the contraceptive pill

1938 One of the brothers is sentenced to prison for sexual abuse of one of the employees and will not survive deportation to Auschwitz

1945 The other brother returns from England after WWII to continue his successes as businessman and benefactor

2012 Saskia Goldschmidt was inspired by the story of the twin brothers to write the novel The Hormone Factory

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