One of the most well-known and loved Dutch writers, Gerard Reve (1923-2006), very bravely tried to write directly in English during the 1950s and 1960s. To achieve his aim he lived in London for several long spells during these years. Not unexpectedly he had great difficulty in finding a publisher for his stories.
It is very rare for a non-native English speaker to write directly into English and be successfully published. Reve didn’t give up easily and he was very proactive in trying to improve his knowledge of English. For example he took up playwriting courses in London and he worked together with his friend Wimie for the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in Queen Square.
Despite all this, his stay in London proved very fruitful, because of having to stay in touch with people back home, he discovered the joys of writing letters.
Then in 1963 he published in Dutch Op weg naar het einde (On the Way to The End) after a lull of nearly seven years. This novel opens with a letter from Edinburgh, where Reve attended an international writers conference.
Suddenly it came all together: his archaic writing style acquired from an English friend, his interest in Christianity, especially the Roman-Catholic religion, and the acceptance of his homosexuality. This quickly established Reve as the writer of the moment. The public couldn’t get enough of his work and earlier books were hastily reprinted.
From now onwards, Reve wrote all his work in the first person. His London years proved a very rich source of material for his stories. Reve now knew who he wanted to be and he had found his own unique style and form.
It would be great if English readers could get acquainted with his work but it seems that his inimitable voice has proved until now too great a challenge to translators and publishers alike.