Arnold Jansen op de Haar

Join the writer on a quest to find out what really matters in life

Sample Passages

  • The Diary

    Tijmen Klein Gildekamp thought of water, a cold drink, a bath in which he could totally submerge himself, or even better, the sea.
    The house he currently occupied was located in the mainly flat landscape, bar the occasional gentle rolling hill, between Seville, Mérida and Badajoz. It was the sun-baked, bone-dry heart of Andalusia that allowed you to spot any travellers from miles away, where piles of stones stood like ruined statues in the empty landscape. The villages in this area were isolated; their church steeples resembled the masts of stranded ships.
    The nearest hamlet was barely more than an intersection of roads, which wouldn’t have looked out of place in a bad spaghetti western, but it had a small supermarket where he did his shopping. It was the type of shop that displayed black pudding made with rice, oddly shaped loaves of bread, fresh olives and dark heavy wine that clung to your glass when you swirled it around. Everything was typically Spanish, except for the landscape, which formed the perfect backdrop for a spaghetti western. Long ago the trees in this area were cut down to build the ships that sailed to discover America.
    He was not anywhere near the main roads. Nobody around here knew him, or almost no one. From time to time, it seemed that his neighbour, a shepherd, would watch him through his binoculars. Once in a while, he spotted a reflection in the sunlight from his opened bedroom window. The neighbour, his landlord, was the only person with whom he had any contact. He, too, had been paid in advance, for one month. He took credits on his life, for as long as it was still possible.
    The people in his Dutch home town knew he had disappeared but not why. He had vanished because that was what he wanted, because people were invading his space. Disappearing was the only way to find out what really mattered. During his life so far he had fled twice; this was the second time. The reason was the same: to escape the person he could never be.

    He put pen to paper. The only sound in his Spanish house was his scraping pen.

    ‘Really, you shouldn’t believe everything they say about me. That story ran and ran. But I was named after my father; I inherited his name and his history.’

    His father’s history was intertwined with Nijmegen. He, Tijmen, had lived in Arnhem during the second part of his life, on a singel along the main railway track. Yes, a singel or boulevard, far too grand a name for his humble street. His view was limited to a number of high-rise office blocks, a raised railway track and six trees. The passing trains seemed to run almost through his living room, but you could get used to anything.
    On winter days when the trees were bare, the illuminated windows showed the office girls above the railway line. From his desk he could just glimpse a bit of the Eusebius spire to the right of the block with the office girls.
    To the left of the office blocks stood the telecom tower and for years – he was a bit of a hypochondriac – he had been worried about the adverse effects of its radiation. Eight years ago a benign cancer growth had been cut from his face.
    In the evenings a deep silence descended over the street only to be shattered by the rhythm of freight trains passing or the buzzing of a lone pizza courier. At night men urinated against the railings bordering the railway track and in the mornings he regularly spotted new graffiti adorning the pillars which supported the flats.
    Each morning, apart from Sundays, at exactly ten o’clock, two blonde women arrived in a black convertible driven by a dark man at the brothel, Natasha Privé, which was located on the street corner. Halfway down the street was the car dealer to whom he had sold his father’s old car. Otherwise the street consisted of small two-up, two-down houses and one block of flats which had six floors. This is where he had lived. On the top floor, from the back, you could just about see the treetops in Sonsbeek Park.
    This park provided a space to walk endlessly all alone in rainy weather. From the park through neighbouring Zypendaal, going past the castle surrounded by a pond, you could walk to the Veluwe. He himself had once, in the pouring rain, got as far as Wolfheze on foot.
    When the weather was sunny, he had read his paper on the terrace of The Palatijn in Sonsbeek Park. The same terrace where, nine years ago, he had spoken to his father for the very last time. He had died a few days later.
    Writers in Arnhem had always lived near the park: Johnny van Doorn and Jan Greshoff lived on opposite sides. The list of names formed a continuing thread: Conny Braam, Johan van der Woude, Jean Dulieu, Hélène Swarth…
    The entrance to the park on Apeldoornseweg with its two porters’ lodges had an English flavour. In 1823, Jacob van Lennep noted in his diary:

    Incalculable treasures are being spent on this site. Hills are being flattened, valleys filled in, two roads have been added, ponds with water features are being dug, streams are directed, houses are built or altered, orangeries are being overhauled, natural stone hothouses are put up in high places, in short, this place is all about luxuriousness and grandeur.

    The singel was the ugliest street in the small neighbourhood squashed against the park. You could find handsome houses around the corner on Apeldoornseweg. Tijmen had lived in the block of flats in just thirty-five square metres of space.
    In this place he had really been thrown back on himself. He had felt so alone that he could have pounded the walls like a caged animal. But it was the only way to begin writing, to become the person he wanted to be, to write in a different way than he had ever done before. It was here that he had written his novel and his poetry collection.
    It had taken twelve years. Rarely had he kept track of time. Time was a side issue. Every now and then he whiled away an afternoon by visiting the Rembrandt cinema around the corner. He lingered for whole afternoons in the near-empty cinema. He preferred romantic comedies but he kept that to himself.
    He wrote at his desk on an ageing computer. In the end he could hardly communicate with anyone, and his attachments could barely be opened.
    Over the years the constant shuffling of his feet had created havoc under his desk. It had worn out the carpet and even eaten into the concrete. He sometimes worried that his feet might visit his downstairs neighbours.
    He didn’t talk to anyone about his loneliness, not even about the beguiling aspects. Solitude provided the space to write novels; it was an immense void, not to be shattered by anyone.
    He had never been afraid of danger. He had experienced more than enough precarious situations. Danger had always been an integral part of his life. It sometimes seemed as if danger made him feel alive. He was positively looking for it; he also courted it through his writing. He had never lied, that was impossible. He only wanted to cast out the chaos.
    Just after he had left the army, he spent the next half year doing nothing but reading books. Writing is reading. He had made a resolution to read during office hours. In no time he had become used to reading books during office hours in the same way others spent time in the office. He kept a list of books he had read and with the reading, the writing came too. The writing washed over him.
    He had created his own lonely world, and the flat became the place to write. He had locked himself in. There were times he had been worried that his numerous bookcases would cascade onto him. It had taken twelve years to say what he could now write in his diary. Becoming a writer was unavoidable, even though he was all on his own.
    For years he concealed everything. Hiding away was best. From time to time it became almost too much. He did his shopping, met friends in a café but, strictly speaking, he was in hiding. And his hiding place was a mess. He concluded that the life of a man on his own is a continual struggle against wine going off and fruit flies.
    He had visitors about six times a year. One of his acquaintances, a poet, had maintained that it was impossible to write more than six good poems a year. He was of the same opinion about visitors. He was just about able to handle visitors six times a year and this included the man reading the utilities meter. He even celebrated his birthday away from home. ‘Because my flat is my office,’ he said. But it was simply a case of blind panic.
    During the final year he had faced the constant threat of female visitors, readers who wanted to find out where he lived. This was before Angel made her appearance. She was undisturbed by the mess. Well, that is what she said, but thinking about it, she had visited only once. Her flat offered ‘more space’, was her verdict.
    The flat on the singel was still his official address. He had paid the rent three months in advance; he hoped everything would be over by then. The whole lot.
    That he had lived in Arnhem was an act of betrayal. He had been raised in Nijmegen. You could do terrible things in your life, such as moving from Nijmegen to Arnhem or, of course, the reverse. Likewise footballers didn’t transfer from NEC – pronounced ‘nek’ in Arnhem but ‘n-i-c’ in Nijmegen – to Vitesse. You had to accept the fact that this was not done. His life consisted of contrasts.
    His parents had first set eyes upon each other in Nijmegen in the late nineteen-forties. Without this encounter he wouldn’t have existed. Ultimately the only thing that mattered was love, the only thing that remained after everything had collapsed. Yet everything had collapsed. He couldn’t even declare the love of his life. The love that dare not speak its name.

    Tijmen wrote in his diary: ‘The twentieth century belonged to my father, but the twenty-first, the twenty-first will belong to me.’
    He looked out of the window onto the rolling landscape and thought of his mother, far away in the Netherlands. What would she be doing at the moment? Most likely she would be sitting in her favourite chair by the window which looked out over Meinerswijk.
    He took up his pen again.
    ‘My parents’ marriage ended after nearly half a century with the death of my father during the Eurovision Song Contest. He died on the toilet during the performance of the Greek entry. It had nothing to do with the Eurovision Song Contest, nor the Greek singer, even though she was dressed in just one long shoelace.’
    He looked up. Why do I write these things? he wondered.
    Because it is important to know about my background, he decided. Even if I don’t have any future.
    ‘As a matter of fact, we still don’t know the cause of my father’s death but we strongly suspect that my father wasn’t in the best of health. People don’t just die without reason. My mother is quite bothered by the location, the toilet. So she usually omits this detail. She just says: “He died within ten seconds.” She is not of the opinion that her marriage of almost half a century has “ended”. According to my mother she continues to be married.’
    To start with, he thought, I have to explain who I am. When people come across my diary it will be handy for them to know who I am. So he began again.
    ‘My name is Tijmen Klein Gildekamp, I am forty-four years old, I am the son of Tijmen and Hanna Klein Gildekamp and I was born in Nijmegen seventeen years after the end of the war. Measured against eternity, I was born just after the conflict. That’s how it feels to me, I have just missed everything. I too, have been in a war but that was quite a different one.’
    He chewed on the end of his pen before he continued: ‘This is my diary. Just in case my secret hideaway gets discovered, this is the only thing that is left to be lost. If I lose this as well, there is nothing left.’
    Thick drops of sweat fell from his neck onto his papers. In northern Europe the summer of 2007 was drowned in rain, but in southern Spain it was ferociously hot. In contrast, the house was almost comfortably cool – and yet he had broken out in a sweat.
    Tijmen brushed away the drops of sweat, only to smudge the ink into long stripes. Outside, the Spanish sun reigned mercilessly. And he wrote: ‘This is how it began…’

    Did you enjoy this first chapter of Angel?

  • A big catch!

    She looked around the tube carriage. The main travellers at this hour were women with their shopping bags. It was one of those rainy, dull days and the musty, damp smell of wet clothes and sweat wafted through the train. It was interesting to notice how many people read on the tube. They did this to avoid having to look at each other, naturally. A true Londoner avoided any contact with fellow passengers. Most certainly you didn’t talk to strangers. There was a distinct shortage of men; they travelled mainly at the rush hour.
    The few tourists stood out because they kept their eyes fixed on the tube map above the windows. She did the same thing, of course, but made sure that this wasn’t obvious. Three more stations to go and she kept a close eye on any new passengers that joined at each station. Londoners wouldn’t do this, as it was bound to attract unwelcome attention.
    Today of all days, she had finally found the notice in the telephone box. At the post office the man behind the counter had looked at her as if he had expected her. She found Tijmen’s poem and a note: the plan was to meet in front of ‘the coelacanth’ at the Natural History Museum. She started; the next stop was South Kensington.
    When she got off the train, she checked if she was being followed. She no longer noticed that this had become a habit. The signs at the station clearly showed her how to get to the museum. She checked her watch; she had only five minutes left.
    Voices resounded against the tiled walls of the underground passage that led to the museum. She was surrounded by families with lots of children and she was annoyed at their leisurely pace.
    When she finally walked up the stairs she had her first glimpse of the museum. The drizzle hadn’t stopped and she found herself at the end of a long queue of people winding its way up the stairs. By now she was extremely nervous and anxious. Calm down, Angel, she told herself, you’re nearly there. The English joined the queue and waited patiently in spite of the rain, taking for granted the slow crawl towards the entrance.

  • The Caledonian Sleeper

    It was already late, between yesterday and tomorrow, somewhere between being awake and asleep, accompanied by the lilt of wheels on tracks, and passengers were getting ready for bed. The train had a name: the Caledonian Sleeper.
    If you pushed your forehead against the window and used your hands to shut out the light, you could see village lights flying past. Villages where people were leading proper lives, some with meaningful lives, while others just lived, without giving it a second thought. Did it matter? Tijmen wondered. What is a meaningful life? Is one life not as meaningful or futile as another? He had misted up the window and drew a heart with two letters: A and T.
    The bar was as peaceful as the night. Somewhere, ice tinkled in a glass. Passengers chatted in a low voice. Efficient waiters moved soundlessly through the aisles.
    After dining at Brown’s, Tijmen and Angel had decided to take the overnight sleeper from London to Fort William, deep in the Scottish Highlands and far away from the Sun’s journalists. They had arrived just in time at Euston, the only tickets left were for a first-class sleeping compartment. ‘With en-suite toilet and double bed,’ according to the girl at the ticket desk.
    Tijmen picked up his notebook and read aloud:

  • Ghosts

    Strange noises woke them up during the night. They listened carefully. As ever, there were birds around. The sheep were quiet.
    ‘Someone is walking around the tent,’ Angel whispered.
    Tijmen heard it now as well, and picked up a torch.
    The footsteps seemed to move away in the direction of the cottage. They heard a door slam shut.
    ‘I am sure I locked up,’ said Tijmen.
    He searched his rucksack for the key and, with one quick move, zipped open the tent. The light of his torch gave the surroundings a ghostly appearance. The pitch-black sea could be seen below. Nothing else showed up.
    He proceeded cautiously towards the cottage. The key didn’t turn. He tried again, a soft click this time, and he opened the door and pointed his torch inside. He heard some rustling. Suddenly at the edge of his vision a shadow appeared. He held his breath. A bird flew into his face; he pushed it back with two hands. It disappeared shrieking and fluttering into the night.
    After he had calmed down a bit, he shouted, hoping to sound firm, ‘Anyone there?’
    He heard his own strangled voice. Blood pulsed through a vein in his neck.
    He checked the rooms, the kitchen, and although there wasn’t anyone there he felt a presence; something that couldn’t be named. He spotted a shadow outside through the window. He closed the door with a bang and fled the house.
    Back at the tent he found Angel, white as a sheet; trembling, she pointed towards the hill.
    ‘I saw something moving.’
    Tijmen took the torch and ran up the hill, only to nearly fall into the well, after a few hundred metres. He cursed loudly. The piece of driftwood had been moved.
    ‘What?’ asked Angel when he returned.
    ‘Sheep,’ answered Tijmen.
    Afterwards they couldn’t go back to sleep. They lay close together, intertwined. He stroked her blonde hair. He kissed her tentatively. Her tongue quivered along his lips. His hand went to her breasts and felt her nipples responding. They didn’t hear another thing but it was not until early morning that they fell asleep.

  • Flashing Birds – On the day that all of the Netherlands celebrated liberation

    Around midday, just after high mass, he had heard the low roar of aeroplanes; there must have been hundreds, like flashing birds. Following them, secured by long lines, the gliders. In between, like small bluebottles, flew Typhoons and Spitfires. Over the city centre they swooped downwards, and during the dive you could hear the rattling of machine guns. Razing Thunderbolts dropped cluster bombs, followed by the sound of a series of explosions in the city centre.

    A column of refugees had formed carrying their household goods on whatever had wheels, moving away from the burning centre and going southwards. He saw a children’s pram piled up high with books, heavy loaded carts drawn by horses, people carrying their bed coverings on their back, someone lugging a complete mattress, rattling bicycles with pots and pans dangling from the handlebars. But the lasting impression was made by their faces: a drab, silent, chalk-white column, and in the background the orange black glow of the burning city.

    On the day that all of the Netherlands celebrated liberation, he had danced down the streets with friends for hours. There were fireworks and military bands and for the very first time he heard the melancholic sound of a bagpipe. He had been drinking in a way he had never done before but it worked counter-productively. It didn’t cheer him up, rather it made him feel sad. He had never felt so empty.

    The resistance group was formed in 1942, just after the deportation of the first Jews from Nijmegen. One evening after dark, Jan’s brother Mannes had seen a large group of people walking along Van Schaeck Mathonsingel to the station: men, women, the elderly and even children, all carrying their meagre possessions. Mannes had stopped his bike, and it was only at this point that he noticed they all wore a yellow star.

    An armed German soldier had approached him to ask what he was doing.

    ‘Was tun Sie hier?’ Mannes stammered. ‘Das ist doch gar nicht gestattet was Sie jetzt machen.’

    ‘Also wenn das nicht gestattet ist, gehen Sie mahl mit,’ shouted the German. ‘Das sind alles verdammte Juden.’

    The German had tried to grab his bycycle.

    ‘Ich hab ein Ausweiss,’ Mannes had shouted and managed to hang on to his bicycle.

    While other Germans, alerted by the noise, came over, Mannes managed to slip away in the dark.

    The next day the resistance group had put together their aims: ‘Provide help to Jewish people by all possible means. Provide help to forced labourers who are being sent to Germany to work in the war industry. Acquire ration books for those who have been denied access. Provide organised, and if required armed resistance, to implement the aims stated above.’ Godfried was responsible for ‘sabotage and acts of violence’.

    Godfried thought, we were amateurs, and the memories created a lump in his throat.

    He walked down the stairs to the kitchen on the ground floor. The kitchen was built out of hardwood, appropriate for the stately old house. He retrieved a coffee filter and took five spoonfuls from the coffee tin. While he was making coffee he realised that everyone had died: the owners of the printing press, Toon Verwey, of course, and Peter’s brother. He never referred to them using names from the resistance, he preferred their real names: Toon, Peter, Gerard… They had all perished in the wake of the discovery of the printing press in Nijmegen’s lower city; executed or murdered in a concentration camp. Gerard, Baron Van Hoevelaken, had later been arrested and deported to Neuengamme; six months before the end of the war he had died of exhaustion.

    After the war Mannes had become a famous sculptor. He had created a monument for Jan van Hoof on Trajanusplein in Nijmegen.

    He had died a few years ago and recently his sculpture The Goal of Santiago de Chile had been posthumously exhibited in the Sculptures by the Sea Museum. Mannes had never ceased to resist. Peter and Godfried were now the only group members still alive.

    Peter could have saved his brothers by turning himself in. His brothers were innocent but would he have offered himself for his younger brother, Tijmen? Godfried asked himself. He hoped so but he wasn’t sure if it would have changed anything.

    What he regretted most was the execution of Toon Verwey by the Germans. Even Toon’s little sister and parents hadn’t survived the war; they were killed in an accidental bombing by the Americans in February 1944. There had never been a friend like Toon.

    Godfried stared out of the window; the view became hazy and he felt a slight dizziness.

Sample Information


Pictures of Angel’s launch party

We find out what happened to Tijmen after he leaves Bosnia. He is now in his mid forties and yes, he did become a writer and published a novel, a poetry collection and various columns. But at a cost, his personal life is very lonely, and he goes through life without ever having found a companion.

You expect peace to give you all the freedom you want but Tijmen finds that you are still trapped if you are in the wrong environment. Angel is a story about expectations, failures and the fragility of human existence.

We travel back to the past and find out more about why Tijmen feels the way he does. The world of his parents, his uncle, the hero of the resistance and his childhood in a small provincial town, have all left their mark on him.  This reflects clearly how the world has changed during the last seventy years.

Just when Tijmen has lost all hope, when he can no longer belong, Angel appears. This does not remove his needs to escape from the suffocating parochial society that surrounds him.

Angel di Tommaso, offspring of a broken family, works in a massage salon and is a budding singer by night. Tijmen Klein-Gildekamp comes from a close knit family and has taken on the literary world. This does not look like the ‘perfect match,’ let alone likely to produce the ‘white tie wedding’ that was expected of him once he grew up.

It is Angel’s contrasting background that makes it even more urgent to break free. A lottery win enables him to do just that: to disappear because he wants to be lost.

A series of incidents follows and their vivid description reminds us of a film script. They take us to the south of Spain and London.

Interestingly during a long and revealing chat in a well known London wine bar Angel and Tijmen discover that they share a history. This knowledge when it is seen in its true light nearly leads to a disaster on Waterloo Bridge.

After yet another incident, Tijmen, taking Angel with him, decides to run away as far as they can get from interfering people to a remote Scottish island.
But can you escape from yourself?

Maybe not but what survives of us is love. Can we trust in this faith?

Buy the book to find out Tijmen’s fate.

£10.99 – $19.00
You can buy Angel now by clicking on the ‘Buy this book’ button on this page. Your card will be debited in your local currency.

If you want to order in any other way, please email the publisher.

Other titles by Arnold Jansen op de Haar: King of TuzlaThe Refrain of Other People’s Lives & Yugoslav Requiem.

ISBN: 978-1-907320-07-1
Number of pages: 215
Price: £0


‘Angel is a book in its own class, fragments spattered on pages, episodes, essays, pieces of thought. In this it cleverly perhaps maps what’s left of the brain of its central character, Tijmen.

It’s a brilliant piece of writing from a remarkable writer.’ – Words Across Time

‘The story is very intriguing … another interesting aspect is the inclusion of poetry’
‘If you like your novels to be rich in complexity … a thriller with a bit of rhythmic difference … you’ll enjoy Angel’ – life between pages blog

‘The book is beautifully written and the tone is wonderfully eloquent.’
‘Every page I turned made me want to find out more about him and his love interest Angel.’ – Joanne Clancy on her blog

‘Jansen op de Haar continues to demonstrate a rare talent of writing succinctly, yet with impact.’ – Stephen Phillips on his blog

‘Frequently alternating narratives spanning history and current day, interspersed with poetic elements and pop culture references, create a rich and moving tapestry of life that is hard to look away from (at times, ‘like a car accident’).’ – Booklover Book Reviews

‘it is compelling, and as the novel goes on it gathers pace’ – Watching The Coast 

‘Intriguing, exciting and full of striking scenes’ – Xandra Schutte, publisher

‘An intriguing book. Very well written. Congratulations’ – Anna Penta, editor