War and Turpentine

Stefan Hertmans, David McKay

War and Turpentine
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War and Turpentine

Stefan Hertmans, David McKay

Longlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017 

A New York Times Top 10 Best Book of the Year 

An Economist Best Book of the Year

The life of Urbain Martien – artist, soldier, survivor of World War I – lies contained in two notebooks he left behind when he died in 1981. In War and Turpentine,  his grandson, a writer, retells his grandfather’s story, the notebooks providing a key to the locked chambers of Urbain’s memory.     

With vivid detail, the grandson recounts a whole life: Urbain as the child of a lowly church painter, retouching his father’s work;dodging death in a foundry; fighting in the war that altered the course of history; marrying the sister of the woman he truly loved; being haunted by an ever-present reminder of the artist he had hoped to be and the soldier he was forced to become. Wrestling with this tale, the grandson straddles past and present, searching for a way to understand his own part in both.

As artfully rendered as a Renaissance fresco, War and Turpentine paints an extraordinary portrait of one man’s life and reveals how that life echoed down through the generations.     

(With black-and-white illustrations throughout)

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