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De donkere kamer van Damokles

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  7,501 ratings  ·  257 reviews
De donkere kamer van Damokles vertelt het verhaal van Henri Osewoudt, sigarenhandelaar te Voorschoten. Tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog ontmoet hij de verzetsman Dorbeck, die sprekend op hem lijkt op één ding na, dat hij zwart haar heeft terwijl Osewoudt blond is, en die hem opdrachten geeft die hij gewillig uitvoert.
Na de bezetting lijkt alles zich tegen hem te keren en wor
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Paperback, 31e druk, 335 pages
Published June 1991 by G.A. van Oorschot (first published November 1958)
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3.83  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,501 ratings  ·  257 reviews


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Glenn Russell
Mar 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

“Wat is een held? Iemand die straffeloos onvoorzichtig is geweest.”
― Willem Frederik Hermans, De donkere kamer van Damokles
Can you read the above quote? Most people can't since it is written in Dutch. One big reason William Fredrick Hermans (1921-1925) isn't a well know as other authors of his generation, say, Heinrich Böll, William Trevor or Alain Robbe-Grillet.

Willem Frederik Hermans's novel of intrigue and espionage is told not in first person narrative but has the quality of first person n
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BlackOxford
Dec 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dutch-flemish
Surface All the Way Through

After reading the first 20 pages or so of Hermans's Darkroom of Damocles, I began to suspect a problem with the English translation. The text is spare to the point of aridity with hardly any description of people or places. Similarly, there is no psychological commentary; motives, reflections, emotions are unstated. Dialogue is presented more like a punching match than a conversation. Sentences are terse; paragraphs are short. Transitions are unexpected and somewhat di
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Mahak
Jul 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The discovery of the self and our potential is a hard journey especially when a psychological feeling of ineptness resides so deeply within. While we have our teachers and competitors to thank for such realisations, our protagonist lil ol Henri is not quite so fortunate.
Through a lone serendipitous event, like dominos set in motion to befall one another, he "becomes a new man" after taking a series of instructions, blindly I'd say, to test his mettle and thus so proving himself to be no less th
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Jonfaith
Milan Kundera offers a compound blurb for The Darkroom of Damocles; "I read it in a single sitting" and "a thriller during which the suspense never flags." While I agree with the first sentiment -- I read the final 270 pages in an evening -- the second claim is more elusive. Detailing the occupation/resistance dynamic in the Netherlands during WW II, W.F. Hermans unleashes a nightmare where his unsettling protagonist Osewoundt (O) takes up arms against the Germans and finds more than traces of e ...more
Jane
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: passed-on
I must confess that I expected The Darkroom of Damocles to be a dark and difficult book. The title, the description of the author as “one of the most important Western European authors to emerge from the postwar period”, and that oh so dark cover all suggested that to me.

But I was wrong. This is a terribly readable book, simply, clearly and very well written, and it is very easy to keep turning the pages to see what happens. It’s almost a case of serious literary meets gripping thriller. And I
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Jonathan
A possibly great book which unfortunately let itself get a little flabby and out of shape. I found that, after a few hundred pages, I simply stopped caring...It is written in a plain, airport thriller prose style so I was unable even to submerge myself in its language. An interesting concept, and worth a read, but I was unable to get excited about it and was (to be honest) rather glad when I had finished.
Hesham
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A sheer nihilism,yet paradoxically spontaneous one. It Sounds to be narrated in praise of nothingness .Anyway ,when one's life turned to be irredeamble ,and no hope flickering in the distance ,what should one adheres to ? When life is no longer wants us to be in it ?This is the story of how the war can reduce everything we have , possess or believe in to an absolute null.

Considering Hermans's novel as a pessimistic one , would not be accurate,, I found him to be a realistic writer who just conve
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Marc
For many this is the masterpiece of W.F. Hermans, one of the greatest Dutch writers of the 20th Century. This probably is due to the ambiguous attitude of "resistance hero and/or willy-nilly collaborator" Osewoudt, the main character. He's a weak man that gets inspired by his more heroic alter ego Dorbeck, and becomes a killing machine. Hermans himself wasn't very pleased with this book, and I think he was not entirely wrong. It's not really high quality literature and the story often seems to g ...more
Anne
I did not think I would like as much as I did. I wasn't very impressed by Nooit Meer Slapen, which is also by Hermans. This novel, however, was very interesting, and had a good pace. His style neither appealed to me nor did it put me off; it was quite factual. I like how it is at first quite a simple war story, but when I realised that Osewoudt might not be a reliable narrator, I started questioning things that happened before in the novel. Simply a good book. +1 for Dutch literature.
Akke
Jan 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dutch, 2016
this book is fucked up in all sorts of ways
Eva
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, dutch, bookclub
Main character Osewoudt seems to go through life in a plastic bubble: nothing really touches him. Interesting theme about truth and perception. Also interesting view about ww2 in the netherlands, mainly about the role of the resistance. i can imagine this book being revolutionairy in it's time. But it's Also very flat concerning character development.
Annet
May 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dutch
One of the best Dutch writers in history. Bizare, fascinating story. Had to read it for my Dutch literature list at high school, but I liked it. Great Dutch literary book. Also for this one, have to reread it soon, it's in my bookcase!
Kelly de Ruiter
May 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Best book in dutch literature. Perfection.
Slávek Rydval
Mar 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Slávek by: Milan Kundera
This a slightly clichéd existential novel with thriller elements is more and more interesting with every page you read. Unfortunately, the end is completely botched.
Ming
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Anthony Ferner
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dutch-fiction
Set during the German occupation of the Netherlands in the second world war, De donkere kamer van Damokles (The Darkroom of Damocles) follows the life of Henrik Osewoudt. Osewoudt is a bit of a nonentity: slight of build, beardless, and with a high, feminine voice, he has few aspirations beyond running the family cigar shop with his older wife who is also his first cousin, and looking after his mother who in a bout of insanity has killed her husband, Henrik's father. Everything changes when the ...more
Helle
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
My Dutch teacher in high school would probably have a fit about the fact that I read this Dutch “literary masterpiece” (maybe not his exact words, but close) in English. And he’s welcome to it – I did not like him and believe that feeling was mutual. I did compare some bits to the original, and as far as I can tell, it was an excellent translation, respecting the spirit of the original.

Overall I have to conclude that I am glad that I read The Darkroom of Damocles, but it did have some issues for
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Adam  McPhee
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, ww2
The first half is one of the best spy thrillers I've ever read. Osewoudt, a young tobacconist, gets involved in the Dutch Resistance and goes on one harrowing mission after another, culminating in an assassination attempt that involves a co-conspirator drawing out a collaborator's child while dressed as a Nazi Youth.

The second half is an existential nightmare. Osewoudt's secrecy during the war makes it impossible to prove who he is to the victorious Allies. The upheaval causes witnesses to disap
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Inger
Sep 15, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book reads like a dream of the main character - one dangerous situation leads to the next, murders are committed, but the main character does not at any point reflect on what he is doing, or why. Surely when you start killing for the resistance, you're going to have some sort of thoughts or feelings about this? Not this guy.

In that sense, the ending of the book is not surprising, and in fact it explains quite a lot about why this book is the way it is. It's just a shame I had to plod throug
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Kiki van Dijk
2015
3/5 stars
It took me a while to read this book! Did I enjoy it? It was actually a book I chose to read for school. With having no idea what I was going to expect wasn't a great start. When I finished it, I still had no idea where the book was about. Now I know. The main question of the book is: Who is Dorbeck? Was he a real person or was he made up?
I think Henri wanted to be another person, so he made someone up that was PERFECT. And that person was Dorbeck.

2017
2/5 sterren
Ik heb nog steeds e
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Maryann
The story of Henri, a tobacconist in Holland during the German occupation and subsequent WWII, is dangerous and a bit confusing. He meets Dorbeck, who gives him missions to accomplish to aid the anti-German allies. Henri is only too happy to complete these assignments, being rejected from the army. Strangely, he and Dorbeck look nearly identical, the only exception being their hair color. Henri is captured by various factions and his identity is questioned repeatedly, though no one can locate th ...more
Franco
Apr 16, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Frans
Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here's another text I never previously read because of all the hype. If I'd read this back when I was 14 years old, it might've blown my mind.

This postmodern text is a (somewhat deceptively) easy, enjoyable read from which you can get more fun (if you're so inclined) by comparing discrepancies within the narrative in the final section with what allegedly occurred earlier in the text.

(view spoiler)
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Hellen
Mar 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Groenen
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finished 'De donkere kamer van Damokles' (The Darkroom of Damocles) by Willem Frederik Hermans

It took me a while to like this novel. It starts out as a pretty generic Second World War story in the Netherlands, and I absolutely do not care for these fictional stories (yes, being a history teacher I realise I might be committing herecy here). Eventually though, the surreal starts creeping in. The main character starts experiencing black-outs and other things start to lose their reality.

The end of
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Martin
Nov 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read this book before, lots of years ago and as I remembered it, it was one of the best books ever. But now, after re-reading it so many years later, I was kind of disappointed. Sure, the story itself if more then ok; it's a kind of layered story and in the end you still don't know what to think of the main character. Was he a good guy, was he a bad guy, maybe someone who just made wrong decisions... I really don't know and that is the strength of the book I think. It's written in a style ...more
Josh Derrick
Maybe it was this book, or maybe it's just translations in general, but this felt not quite right.

I picked up this book because I wanted to get into Dutch literature to better understand Dutch culture, an ongoing fascination I have had since reading A Thousand Autumns. And this did not disappoint. There is a smallness and a quaintness to the Netherlands of this book: the country is seemingly traversed by train very quickly, and everyone seems to know everyone.

On second thought, this was just a
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ro
edit 2017/08/13:
2.5 stars. last time around i only got to about page 170 (3/5th of the book), this time i read the second half as well which is SO much better and more interesting than the first half. still, the main character sucks so yea, def not my fave.

orig. review:
1.5 stars.
i had to drag myself through this book; the only theme that was even remotely interesting was the question of dorbeck's existence. couldnt care less about the characters and if i didnt have to read it for school i would
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Maureen
I read this book as it is required for my literature class.
First of all, the book is really good, but unfortunately I had to read it so fast because I had to meet a deadline, I couldn't really enjoy it.
Second, even though the storyline was very interesting, I found that it bored me a bit around the end as a lot that had happened was repeated and I don't think that this was always neccesary.

I definitely recommend everyone who is interested in this book, but hasn't read it yet to finally pick it u
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Mikko Saari
Fascinating story of uncertainty and strange happenings during the war. Osewoudt ends up working for the Dutch resistance movement during the war, getting involved in all sorts of affairs. The results, after the war, are not pleasant for him, though, as he ends up considered a traitor. The man who was his main contact in the resistance seems to have disappeared completely... Did he ever exist? Interesting story.
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Willem Frederik Hermans is one of the greatest post-war Dutch authors. Before devoting his entire life to writing, Hermans had been teaching Physical Geography at the University of Groningen for many years. He had already started writing and publishing in magazines at a young age. His polemic and provocative style led to a court case as early as 1952. His caustic pieces were compiled in Mandarijne ...more
“Wat is een held? Iemand die straffeloos onvoorzichtig is geweest.” 9 likes
“De mens zal eraan moeten wennen te leven in een wereld zonder vrijheid, goedheid en waarheid. Het zal binnenkort op de lagere school worden onderwezen! Deze oorlog is nog maar een voorproefje van de wereld die komt!” 0 likes
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