‘My brother had been out singing the night he killed a man.’
Walter van den Berg tells a story about the Western suburbs of Amsterdam, where men spend their time in snack bars, drive around in old cars and beat their wives.
In Debt is about a father, Singing Ron, who tells his son his mother is a bad woman, but ends up in jail for saving all the other women in his life. His son, Kevin, is working to pay off his father’s debts by cleaning stolen laptops. Convinced of the intrinsic badness of all women, he searches the laptops for evidence of cheating. Once he finds something, he puts their dirty home videos online.
In Debt is a tough book, that gives a voice to people, who normally only communicate with their fists. But under all that hard shell, obviously also sits a soft core.
‘Book of the month’ at De Wereld Draait Door, a tv show with 1,6 million viewers
‘A phenomenal writer.’ – TROS Nieuwsshow, national public radio
‘Piteous, cutting and unsparing.’ – De Morgen ****
‘Marvelous prose.’ – de Volkskrant
‘I wish I had written this book.’ – Gerbrand Bakker, IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for The Twin, Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for The Detour
‘The first line in In Debt could obtain classical acclaim: “My brother had been out singing on the night he killed a man.” It makes you curious, using the contrast between the soft singing and the harsh manslaughter and there’s a fly in the ointment, which is best not to reveal here. Van den Berg leads us through the novel in a fast pace and in equal parts bare as well as impeccable style, in which the pieces of the puzzle fit perfectly. In Debt is an exemplary novel where, with grand stylistic command, a world is portrayed where self-control is always a problem.’ – NRC Handelsblad ****
‘A contemporary city based tragedy of classical allure. Walter van den Berg’s latest novel hits you hard. In concise language and sharply written scenes, the writer slowly builds towards the climax and makes everything fall into place. The apotheoses of this raw ill-fated drama of good intentions, dumb luck and cravenly turning away is touching. This story about how to be a human being is some very strong shit from van den Berg.’ – De Groene Amsterdammer
‘Walter van den Berg sketches a native underclass from the inside out: a mesmerizing, tense micro world. At the same time van den Berg’s prose urges the readers implicitly yet consistently not to judge, not to bring terms or labels into this anthropological excursion into a world alien to them. In debt. It’s one of those terms that’s too big for this mesmerizing, tense micro world that Walter van den Berg highlights.’ – Vrij Nederland – Book of the Week
‘Van den Berg’s style is very direct. The characters’ sporadic limited linguistic insight is cleverly combined with literary interesting sentences. Sometimes the dialogue confronts the reader with the narrowmindedness of the characters, but not in a derogatory way. Van den Berg has managed to find a way to balance the literary aspect with representativeness and gives us an insight in the harsh world of the native lower class. The desperation, misery, wrong choices, ignorance jumps off the pages, but Van den Berg doesn’t judge; rather he generates understanding. Understanding for the hopelessness, the shabbiness and the brave attempts to escape all that.’ – 8weekly ****
‘In Debt powers through 224 pages with short, poignant, cutting sentences that almost all hit you like a wrecking ball. Readers better be prepared for the merciless pace of the story Walter van den Berg presents us with and for the characters that are hopelessly adrift.’ – Hebban ****
‘Even though his characters are hopeless, Van den Berg doesn’t portray them as merciless. The author raises a certain sympathy for the lost souls who, like the back cover says, will never be saved. In Debt hurts in all its grimness and illustrates van den Berg’s talent for writing.’ – Gazet van Antwerpen ****
Shortlisted for: Librisprijs