The Detour (De omweg)
Gerbrand Bakker, 2010
240 pages, 59.000 words
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The Detour | De omweg
Gerbrand Bakker

'I found the novel thoroughly engrossing. I read it with complete trust. I sank into the wife's gloom and the husband's despair and confusion. And I found myself floating on currents brilliantly constructed by its author. It's a wonderful novel. Wise and generous to a fault of all our human failings and frailties. The book remains on my list of reading highlights for the year.' - Lloyd Jones (author of Mister Pip, shortlist Booker Prize)

‘Like other recent novels, such as Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee and Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, Ten White Geese has the laconic texture and angular plotting of a thriller, with shifting points of view that keep the reader guessing about what surprise is lurking around the corner.’ – The New York Review of Books


Amsterdam. A woman disappears. Her husband is questioned by an understanding police officer who also seeks help from her parents. The woman, a teacher specializing in the poems of Emily Dickinson, has rented an old house, far away in Wales, in order to make a fresh start. She wants to forget things; she’s on the run from painful situations and bad news.

November turns into December. A blunt sheep farmer slaughters a lamb; a general practitioner is smoking himself to death in his empty practice; the woman gets a haircut at the local hairdresser. On the field near the house there are ten white geese, but two months later only four remain. And what to do with the friendly but elusive young man that jumps over her garden fence one foggy afternoon?

On the day before Christmas, the husband and police officer take the ferry to Hull. They are getting closer and time is running out.

Gerbrand Bakker tells the story of a woman trying to escape the circumstances that have become unbearable. It is the universal story which has to be told in every era, that of a woman who wants to start again – if only she has the chance.

The Detour was selected for the 10 Best Books list for the Spring of 2011 by the Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature (NLPVF).

Praise for The Detour:

'When Gerbrand Bakker's first book, The Twin, won the IMPAC Award, it was clear that an assured and mature new voice had emerged in European fiction. Yet, as accomplished a work as The Twin was, its successor is even more powerful.' – The Guardian

'And there is something almost thrillingly fresh about the way Bakker has approached writing this. It bears his indelible poetic stamp, his incisor cut, but is somehow entirely different in style to The Twin in its pace, its energy, its characters.' – Irish Independent

'The particular strength is in the plot, which springs some late revelations and surprises, and will almost certainly keep you rooted to your chair until the dénouement.' – The Spectator

Like its predecessor, The Detour is written and translated with lapidary precision, perspective and crisp prose; there is emotion and expression, but held back from the writing, which is controlled and full of clean, physical detail, simple and devastating.' – The Independent

'Gerbrand Bakker ist ein geradezu diabolisch guter Erzähler. Bakkers zwei vorangegangene Romane waren bemerkenswertig gut, Der Umweg ist nun sein bislang bester.' – Süddeutsche Zeitung

'Tranquility and tension generate a quiet triumph. As with The Twin this is a still, meditative work that gathers force almost imperceptibly. The tone is elegiac, wistful and angry, pulsing beneath innocuous sentences about chicken-wire and wheelbarrows with an anguish that neither the narrator nor the character will ever allow to be fully expressed. In is indirection lies its triumph.' - Sunday Business

'Mit Der Umweg bleibt Gerbrand Bakker also auf seinem einmal einge-schlagenen Weg. fernab von aktuellen Moden und dem Zeitgeist erzählt er mit einer ebenso unaufdringlichen Sympathie wie subtilen Ironie die oft schon erzählte Geschichte vom Ende des Landlebens ein weiteres Mal.' – Die Zeit

'A final note of appreciation must go to the book's translator, David Colmer. When turning one of Dickinson's poems into Dutch, Emilie decides to shift the meaning of a line in order to mimic the original's style, believing 'rhythm is most important here'. Colmer appears to work by this maxim, miraculously retaining Bakker's unique style and sensibility, in the process helping to confirm Bakker as a leading light of new European fiction.' – Wales Arts Review

'There’s a sense of honesty that shines through, no bulking out or lengthy passages to clog each scene, just simplicity in the telling of this tale. I want to know how the characters develop; I can feel seasons as they change, the moods that swing, the feelings that cause pain and memory.' – Raven Books

'The Detour is a quiet and austere novel in many respects, but nonetheless effects the same kind of emotional force reminiscent of the work of J.M. Coetzee. This is a wistful, elegiac and surprisingly angry read, pulsing beneath well wrought sentences with a restrained anguish.' - Daily Business Post

'Emilie remains satisfyingly enigmatic, consistently managing her secrets in a way that leads to a memorably surreal final image. In the evolution of her character, and in the ways in which she interacts with the world, Bakker establishes a steadily mounting tension via an unlikely reworking of quotidian moments. It’s in those strange, haunting glimpses of a disrupted life that this novel truly finds its voice.' - Star Tribune

'Ten White Geese is bleak and lovely in equal measure. Bakker - who won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for his first novel, The Twin - also captures the gorgeous desolation of the natural world as few contemporary writers can. And he makes Agnes a compelling enigma until the last page, sharing just enough of her anguish, but not too much. This is a tragic story, yet it is also one of the most beautifully written novels in recent memory.' - Newsday

‘Gerbrand Bakker has a style that is tenebrous and cool. The text is pocketed with meaning and subtly menacing.’ – The New Yorker

Einaudi (Italy) - La deviazione

Ci sono storie fatte di piccole cose, paesaggi minimi, gesti semplici che però riportano all'essenza della vita e ne fanno deflagrare il mistero. Cosí è questo romanzo, e questa è la ragione per cui ha avuto un successo straordinario e inaspettato. La campagna cristallizzata nel gelo invernale. Una fattoria da riaccomodare. Poi gli animali che abitano il pascolo, i boschetti, la palude. E le dieci oche della fattoria. Il mondo che Agnes si è scelta è tutto qui. Questi sono gli esseri viventi con cui è in contatto. Alle spalle si è lasciata un piccolo scandalo, un lavoro di prestigio e soprattutto un marito che sta seguendo le sue tracce con l'aiuto di un amico poliziotto, per riportarla a casa. Ma per quanto cerchi di tagliare i ponti con il passato, c'è qualcosa di oscuro e pericoloso da cui, forse, non riuscirà a liberarsi.

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Gallimard (France) - Le Détour

Agnès part s’installer sans détour dans un cottage isolé du pays de Galles. Elle a fui sa vie d’avant, retiré beaucoup d’argent, et a préféré oublier son téléphone portable sur le ferry. Elle laisse derrière elle un poste d’enseignant à l’Université, une thèse sur Emily Dickinson, un mari aussi, et ce jeune étudiant dont elle s’était éprise… L’avenir semble incertain, sa santé vacille. Alors la beauté de la nature autour d’elle, les chemins de randonnée et la mer au loin, prennent toute la place.

Jusqu’au jour où le jeune Bradwen fait irruption chez elle. Il ne veut pas parler de son passé, pas plus qu’elle. Leur relation se passe presque de mots, mais elle semble gagner en intensité jour après jour. Pendant ce temps-là, aux Pays-Bas, son mari engage un détective privé pour essayer de la retrouver…

Le détour excelle dans l’art de peindre des vies silencieuses. Des existences cabossées, des êtres en fuite, obligés de se cacher et à la recherche d’un apaisement impossible. Gerbrand Bakker capte la condition humaine dans toute sa complexité et nous donne une nouvelle preuve de son grand talent.

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Gallimard (France) - Le détour (folio)

Peut-on laisser sa vie derrière soi, couper les ponts et tout recommencer dans une maison isolée au pays de Galles? L'héroïne du Détour, une femme entre deux âges, semble tenter l'aventure accompagnée, dans sa fuite, des livres de la poétesse américaine Emily Dickinson – le sujet de sa thèse. Une liaison avec un étudiant, un scandale à l'université, un mari d'abord courroucé puis indifférent, tout cela appartient au passé. Elle occupe ses journées seule, jardine, découvre la nature autour d'elle, les oies, la mer au loin, et ces chemins de randonnée qui traversent la propriété qu'elle loue. Sa solitude prend fin quand Bradwen, un jeune homme lui aussi en rupture de ban, fait irruption dans son jardin. Il n'est guère plus bavard qu'elle, mais une relation de plus en plus intense s'installe entre eux.

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Gyldendal (Denmark) - Omvejen

"Omvejen" handler om en kvindelig lektor i engelsk, specialist i digteren Emily Dickinson, der en dag uden et ord til farvel forlader sin mand og sit hjem i Amsterdam og tager til et afsidesliggende landsted i Wales. Her tilbringer hun to måneder med at forsøge at indrette sig i en ny hverdag, mens ægtemanden raser derhjemme og en kuldsejlet afhandling og en affære med en studerende måske viser sig blot at have været krusninger på overfladen...

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Harvill Secker/Vintage (United Kingdom) - The Detour

The new novel, set in the UK, from the author of the IMPAC Dublin prize-winning bestseller The Twin. A Dutch woman rents a farm in remote, rural Wales. She says her name is Emilie. She is a lecturer doing some research, and sets about making the farmhouse more homely. When she arrives there are ten geese living in the garden but one by one they disappear. Perhaps it's the work of a local fox.

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Metis Kitap (Turkey) - Dolambaç

Adının Emilie olduğunu söyleyen Hollandalı bir kadın Galler'in kuzeyinde eski bir çiftlik evine taşınır. Kocasını ve eski hayatını terk edip gelmiştir buraya – ama neden? Neden ancak bir süreliğine kiraladığı bir çiftliğin bahçesini güzelleştirmeye adar kendini? Neden bucak bucak kaçar herkesten? Ve neden kaçmadığı tek kişinin —bir geceliğine çiftlikte konaklayan ve ardından kalmaya devam eden bir genç adamın— varlığı ona hem mutluluk hem acı, hem huzur hem de endişe verir? Kimin nesidir, nasıl bir kadındır bu "Emilie"?

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Penguin (United States) - Ten White Geese

The eagerly anticipated, internationally bestselling new novel by the winner of the world’s richest literary prize for a single work of fiction. A woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales. She says her name is Emilie. An Emily Dickinson scholar, she has fled Amsterdam, having just confessed to an affair. On the farm she finds ten geese. One by one they disappear. Who is this woman? Will her husband manage to find her? The young man who stays the night: why won’t he leave? And the vanishing geese? Set against a stark and pristine landscape, and with a seductive blend of solace and menace, this novel of stealth intrigue summons from a woman’s silent longing fugitive moments of profound beauty and compassion.

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Rayo Verde (Spain) - Diez gansos blancos

Una mujer extranjera alquila una solitaria granja en Gales. Dice que su nombre es Emilie. En la granja encuentra diez gansos que van desapareciendo sin que sepa la causa. Poco a poco conoceremos a la protagonista y querremos saber más. ¿De qué huye? ¿Por qué no echa el desconocido que aparece en la granja? ¿Qué hará cuando el marido la encuentre?

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Raig Verd (Catalan) - Deu ogues blanques

El guanyador dels premis Impac i Llibreter torna amb la seva millor novel·la, guardonada amb l’Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2013, premi a la millor novel·la estrangera publicada al Regne Unit. Una dona estrangera lloga una solitària granja a Gal·les. Diu que el seu nom és Emilie. A la granja hi troba deu oques que van desapareixent sense que en sàpiga la causa. De mica en mica coneixerem la protagonista i voldrem saber-ne més. De què fuig? Per què no fa fora el desconegut que apareix a la granja? Què farà quan el marit la trobi?

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Scribe (Australia) - The Detour

A woman abandons her home in Holland without a word, leaving behind an impervious husband, mystified parents, and an unfinished thesis on reclusive poet Emily Dickinson. Across the sea in Britain, she arrives at an isolated cottage in the shadow of a mountain. She settles there, alone in the ancient landscape, her only contact coming from animals she encounters, a handful of wary locals, and her poetry books. But what is she fleeing? And will her new home provide redemption, or lead her further into darkness?

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Suhrkamp (Germany) - Der Umweg

An klaren Tagen kann man in der Ferne das Meer sehen, und auf den verwunschenen Wegen rings um das alte walisische Farmhaus ist lange niemand mehr gewandert. Es ist ein schöner Flecken Erde, den Agnes sich als Versteck ausgesucht hat. Die Gedanken an das, was sie von Amsterdam vertrieben hat – ihr ahnungsloser Mann, der junge Student, vor allem aber die verstörende Angst vor dem Kommenden –, lassen sich so leichter im Zaum halten. Nur manchmal wird ihr alles zuviel: daß der Fuchs sich eine Gans nach der andern holt oder daß der grobe Nachbarsfarmer schon morgens um neun in Socken vor ihr sitzt.

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Suhrkamp (Germany) - Der Umweg paperback

An klaren Tagen kann man in der Ferne das Meer sehen, und auf den verwunschenen Wegen rings um das alte walisische Farmhaus ist lange niemand mehr gewandert. Es ist ein schöner Flecken Erde, den Agnes sich als Versteck ausgesucht hat. Dort lassen sich die Gedanken an das, was sie aus Amsterdam vertrieben hat, leichter im Zaum halten: ihr ahnungsloser Mann, der junge Student, vor allem aber die Angst vor dem Kommenden. Doch eines Tages nistet sich der junge Bradwen bei ihr ein. Ähnlich wie Agnes gibt er kaum etwas über seine Vergangenheit preis.

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Other titles by Gerbrand Bakker:
The Twin
The Queen's Visit
> The Detour
Pear Trees Blossom White
Donkey, Sheep and Redshank
Winter Book
Jasper and his Serf
Rights sold to:
- Australia (Scribe)
- Brazil (Radio Londres)
- China (Shanghai 99)
- Croatia (Fraktura)
- Denmark (Gyldendal)
- Ethiopia (HoHe)
- France (Gallimard)
- Germany (Suhrkamp)
- Italy (Einaudi)
- Lebanon (All Prints)
- Norway (Bokvennen)
- Spain (Rayo Verde)
- Sweden (Nilsson Agency)
- Turkey (Metis Kitap)
- United Kingdom (Harvill Secker)
- United States (Penguin)
- filmrights (N279 Entertainment)
Awarded with:
- The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 2013
Shortlisted for:
- IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2014
- The Libris Literature Prize 2011
Longlisted for:
- The AKO Literature Prize 2011
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