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The Twin

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  2,051 Ratings  ·  266 Reviews
When his twin brother dies in a car accident, Helmer is obliged to return to the small family farm. He resigns himself to taking over his brother's role and spending the rest of his days 'with his head under a cow'.

After his old, worn-out father has been transferred upstairs, Helmer sets about furnishing the rest of the house according to his own minimal preferences. 'A do
ebook, 288 pages
Published September 4th 2008 by Vintage Digital (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jason Edwards
Jul 02, 2012 Jason Edwards rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just finished The Twin, literally minutes ago, and want to get my thoughts down as quickly as possible. Not because I’m so very excited. It’s just that I know I have a problem doing a proper review after a few days have passed, and the truth is I don’t even know what I think of this book right now. Maybe I should let it marinate, but just in case, here goes.

The original title in Dutch is Boven Is Het Stil, which translates roughly to "Above Is Quiet." I would have liked to have known that, as th
Oct 02, 2011 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm always flattered when an author doesn't interpret her/his work for me, doesn't tell me how to feel or even what his characters might be feeling. I was taught to "show not tell" in fiction. Maybe that's why right from the start Bakker's The Twin had me "watching" it (directed by Ingmar Bergman, I think) in black and white perched on the edge of my chair. This was a two day marathon. And in the end I was awarded a quiet day of contemplation about what had happened and why, its reality and its ...more
Mar 18, 2013 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve just finished reading this book and should perhaps wait a day or two to write my review so that maybe my gushing and cooing about how wonderful this book is will wear off a bit. But I doubt that I’ll feel different about this book tomorrow or ten years from now. Amazing...perfect...brilliant. Leaves me utterly speechless. For me...this is what fiction is all about.

To say so much with such simplicity.

To so aptly and accurately capture the essence of a place I have never been but will recogni
May 22, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

“Everything is different when you have a coffin in your living room”

These are the kinds of sentences that fill The Twin: subtle, understated and crackling. This beautifully written novel shines with its character depiction of Helmer, a man who has made no choices in his life other than selecting the chickens for the farm. His home, the larger farm animals, his furniture and even his work clothes were passed on: choices that belonged to others.

However, the impending death of his father leads him
Back in September, I suggested Gerbrand Bakker's 2006 novel The Twin (translated by David Colmer) as an unconventional but relevant choice for the Gothic and mystery-themed RIP Challenge V. Having now actually read The Twin, I'm pleased to say not only that I enjoyed it quite a lot, but also that I can firmly stand by my odd categorization. There are other ways to read The Twin—as a pastoral novel, or a piece of quiet psychological realism—but I thought it might be fun to spend my post reading B ...more
Stephen Durrant
Jan 31, 2010 Stephen Durrant rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely not a book for all tastes--but it surely was for mine. I read "The Twin" because a website I browse occasionally ranked it as one of the top five international novels of last year, and I'm glad I did. The style is simple, even flat, and the Dutch countryside portrayed here is bleak. The story is told my Helmer, a man in his mid-fifties, whose identical twin, Henk, died almost forty years before. Helmer still lives in the shadow of Henk and feels himself to be only half a person. He re ...more
Apr 14, 2013 Clare rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ooo, I loved this book, but it's difficult to pin down just why. It reminds me of those fabulously arty films with long shots of a solitary person tending cattle on a farm in a bleak landscape, complete silence except for the constant moan of the wind, the odd cattle call and the cry of a bird.


As the camera closes in, the muck and hard work become clear, and we see the father dying in the bedroom upstairs, surrounded by pictures of mushrooms and sheep and dead relatives.

Helmer... I half lo
My first "book club" experience: the member who suggested this read is moving to Holland in a couple weeks. We met at Pegasus Pizza on campus, I drank a beer with my breadsticks, and reveled in the idea that the four people at the table had just read the same dull, terse book. Father's dying. There is a hooded crow in the ash tree. Since my twin died, I'm half a person. My twin's old girlfriend sends her son to be my farmhand. There are homo-erotic undertones. My life has stood still with the mi ...more
Oct 07, 2016 Janouk rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5//5.0 stars
Dead John Williams
Jul 08, 2015 Dead John Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker Now here's a book to get to grips with.

If you are American, did you know that books written in English are translated into American? words you may not be familiar with like "telephone box", "motor car", "nappy" are translated into words you may understand. If anyone was doing this in reverse I'd be insulted if anyone thought I was not intelligent enough to either grasp or lookup a word or two.

The downside to this, apart from the implied insult, is that Americans get f
Aug 20, 2010 Dagný rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is strange and quite beautiful, both in the way it is written and in the scenes it conjures. It is suffused with the stillness of the watery Dutch landscape it depicts. As with the birdlife's apparitions so with the humans, it is all somehow unique yet true to an eternal nature. In its spareness, in the present tense descriptions of mundane activities and exchanges the narrative is also full; it rests in itself and breathes with nature -until it kicks with nature. It is clear and terse ...more
Anneliese Tirry
Aug 03, 2016 Anneliese Tirry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Het is de klok, die oude staande klok, die de seconden - minuten - uren - dagen in het leven van Helmer wegtikt. Een leven dat onvolledig is na het overlijden van zijn tweelingbroer Henk toen ze 19 waren, zoveel jaren geleden.
Het schijnt alsof Helmer's leven in een soort wachtstand staat, dat het stopte die dag van dat grote verlies, wat leidt tot verbittering.
"Boven is het stil" is een prachtig boek over het ogenschijnlijk eenvoudige leven van een vrijgezel, een boer van middelbare leef
Jul 28, 2011 Cheryl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-lit, fiction
A spare quiet story of an ordinary man, a farmer who feels he was put into his way of life by external circumstances that he no control over. His twin brother died when they were young men, so he ended up taking over the family farm, although he had planned to become educated at a university, and had only recently started his studies. Now it is 35 years later. His father is dying and lives, neglected, in the same house with only his son for company, who seems to hate him in a quiet sort of benig ...more
Aug 31, 2010 Linda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Chosen for discussion at a book group. It is slow, plodding character study set in Netherlands, translated from the Dutch. The twin is left to run the farm when his brother dies..resents it and his aging father for all the years he missed out on his own dream. Discussion may be interesting next month.
Nov 24, 2014 Isabelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bakker schrijft met een bijna beklemmende soberheid en net dat maakt het verhaal zo beklijvend. Je blijft gefascineerd lezen, ook al doet het hoofdpersonage vreselijke dingen, en uiteindelijk ga je die ook helemaal begrijpen. En hoe grauw het verhaal bij tijden ook is, het is tegelijk een liefdesverklaring aan de schoonheid van het platteland.
Jan 27, 2015 Fionnuala rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: place
This is a beautiful book, a sort of modern elegy written in a country farmyard. Not a lot of plot but tons of emotion floating about even if the characters have some difficulty voicing their feelings at times.
Feb 26, 2012 Mirna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Boring and depressive. Not my type of world :)))

Io non so come facciano gli scrittori nordici (volevo dire scandinavi, visto che ora lo pronuncio anche nel modo esatto, ma tecnicamente l'Olanda non rientra in Scandinavia- posso dire gli scrittori dell'Iperborea?) a narrare così bene del normale, della quotidianità.
I tre libri migliori che abbia mai letto sull'argomento, come lo chiamo io, "Ma poi, è proprio necessario essere qualcuno?" sono stati pubblicati dall'Iperborea e sono "Che ne è stato di te, Buzz Aldrin?", "La vita perfetta di
Roger Brunyate
Half a Body

As with the Archipelago Press edition of his later novel, Ten White Geese, Gerbrand Bakker's The Twin has a lovely cover. In this case, a picture of half a dozen cows in a flooded field in Holland, the animals and the big Dutch sky reflected in the water like a mirror. It is a beautiful picture, spacious and calm—and entirely uneventful. The spacious calm is important to Bakker's novel too. I would not call it uneventful entirely, though reading it is a bit like watching cows placidly
May 12, 2014 Veronica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A review of The Twin I stumbled upon was intriguing enough that I jotted down the title and eventually added it to my 2nd list of 100 Books to read.

It was refreshing to find a contemporary writer who doesn’t pale among the revered early 20th century writers. The next time I hear someone claim there are no good writers anymore, I’ll throw Bakker’s name their way.

A Dutch farmer living with his elderly father reflects on the life he was dealt after his twin brother dies unexpectedly at age 20. Gruf
Sep 21, 2016 Jean rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Stark, bleak, and Cold. Not my style of book to read but I wanted to try something different. It was a free book, and I read them all the way through to be fair. It just left me cold and lonely.
Feb 08, 2011 Elsje rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Boven is het stil vertelt het verhaal van Helmer. Het boek begint als Helmer zijn vader 'verstoot' naar boven in de boerderij. De oude man is zwak en dat wordt er door de manier waarop Helmer hem (niet) verzorgt niet beter op. Af en toe krijgt hij iets kleins te eten. En als iemand vraagt of die zijn vader mag zien zegt hij: die slaapt. Overduidelijk heeft Helmer een diepgewortelde afkeer van zijn vader. Een oude, hulpeloze man.

Langzamerhand kom je erachter waarom dat zo is, hoe dat zo is gekome
The loneliness and the wide-open interior spaces of a life half lived--such is the thematic backdrop of this melancholy but engrossing Dutch novel about a farmer who has survived the death of his twin brother only eventually to realize (decades after receiving this fundamental blow to his identity) that life does still hold something for him, something uncanny and new. By the book’s end Gerbrand Bakker’s protagonist has acquired, for us, some of the features of a great friend: both intense famil ...more
Feb 19, 2013 Liviu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mainstream, read_2013
The Twin is a novel that is mesmerizing despite its seemingly bleak and somewhat pointless subject; while the blurb describes the book reasonably well, the power of this novel is revealed when you open it as it's very hard to put it down as the simple, almost stark prose takes over and one feels compelled to turn page after page

Highly, highly recommended and i advise everyone interested to check the sample from say Amazon and see why the book is so powerful; the first person narration works beau
Apr 20, 2013 GoldGato rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, winter
A lifelong bachelor farmer deals with sudden changes in his life, and it becomes quickly obvious he is not a man who would be called a change agent. Bitter but patient, the protagonist in this story lives his life amid the vagaries of Dutch weather, always yearning to see Denmark, symbol of his need for breaking the bonds of a life he never wanted.

Drizzle isn't much more than mist with delusions of grandeur...

Spare. Modest. Melancholy. Affirming. Clear. Concise. This is a book that made me frequ
Mar 13, 2011 Judith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My good friend, Dagny recommended this book to me and she was right on. It's a quiet little story about the twin who survives when his brother dies of a car accident at the age of 18. The survivor was studying at university, while his brother was taking over the family business of running the sheep farm. So Helmer comes home and becomes the substitute son, living in misery with his sadistic father and his long-suffering mother. The story is set in Holland and the farm is just what you'd imagine ...more
Jan 18, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: ANZ LitLovers Yahoo book group
The Twin, by Gerbrand Bakker, is entitled Là-haut, Tout est Calme in France and Oben ist es Still in Germany. Translating these gives a different and more interesting slant to the story immediately: Yonder/Over There, All is Calm in French; and, more intriguing in German, it translates as On the Surface All is Still, but Oben also means ‘upstairs’; ‘above’; ‘overhead’ and even ‘up north’ – all of which have resonance in the novel. Discovering this, I wondered whether there are also these multipl ...more
Daria Ravlic
Aug 05, 2016 Daria Ravlic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Helmer živi na seoskom imanju s nepokretnim ocem. Nakon 30 godina dobije pismo od nekadašnje djevojke svog pokojnog brata blizanca, koja ga dolazi posjetiti i zatražiti posao za svog sina Hanka koji doseljava na imanje na kojem počinje živjeti zajedno s Helmerom i ocem. Odnosi među ukućanima i mještanima su čudnovato bizarni. Na prvi pogled grub, bez emocija, stil pisanja svakom sljedećom stranicom lijepim, elegantnim, ugodnim ritmom i duhovitostima polako osvaja čitatelja. Iz romana izbijaju sa ...more
Zeena  Price
May 09, 2010 Zeena Price rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book is one of those books which, even having just finished it a few minutes ago, I honestly cannot say whether I loved it or hated it. The writing is certainly very beautiful, and the landscape conjured up brilliantly. But it is hard to say whether the novel has any real plot. Is it really about anything? I can, and have, appreciated many a novel with little discernible story line, and only vague, weakly drawn characters, just on the strength of its shining prose. But I am not wholly convi ...more
Nov 05, 2013 Minnie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my preliminary review. i will be discussing this book in our book club so I still have some in-depth studying to do.
I must say I prefer the Afrikaans translation of the Dutch title, "Boven is het Still" to "Bo is dit stil". Calling it The Twin I believe misplaces the emphasis. i do not believe this novel is about being a twin, rather it is about a world beneath the deceptively simple life Helmer leads. His farm is out of the way, yet it is the space in which a bitter existence between a
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reading 2 14 Nov 27, 2014 04:06PM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.
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“Un to blau grisós, el color del llac IJssel un dia d’estiu amenaçat per núvols foscos carregats de trons a la llunyania.” 1 likes
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