A mere 30 Years Late!

21st December 2013 1797 views


From a bookseller in Holland I just received a virgin clingwrapped copy of Tuin der Lusten, the 1983 Dutch translation of my Gardens of Delight, set in the triptych painting by Hieronymus Bosch. I only discovered that this translation exists when someone (maybe Thomas Olde Heuvelt) told me that there’s a copy in a display case in the Hieronymus Bosch Museum in Den Bosch. Back in the summer of 1960 before I went “up” to Oxford I hitchhiked from Rotterdam (where the propeller plane I took from England landed) to Den Bosch searching in vain for signs of Bosch; en route the Dutch police stopped and questioned me, amiably enough, in case I was a British Army deserter because I was wearing a war-surplus army jacket and looked scruffy. I was keen on Bosch thanks to Henry Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, available in UK libraries (unlike the still-banned Tropic of Cancer), which led me to buy Wilhelm Fränger‘s scholarly The Millennium of Hieronymus Bosch, which I still have. I collared Tropic of Cancer the following year on an improvised student trip to Paris.
My ultimate destination after Den Bosch was the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, to meet up with schoolchums, duly accomplished at exactly the assigned hour—I myself had set off two weeks early, to wander by way of Holland (due to Bosch) and the Rhineland (due to Wagner). In one Rhineland youth hostel high on a hilltop, while thunder and lightning raged, the only other occupant, probably an ex-member of the SS, companiably opened my map and pointed systematically at places such as Arnhem while commenting, “Hier, vier hunderd Englander…” then with his finger miming slitting his throat. Good way to pass the time during a storm.
Anyway, I skipped much of central Germany by catching trains from Frankfurt am Main to tiny medieval Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber to see the altarpiece by Tilman Riemenschneider—what on earth possessed me to ignore Heidelberg in favour of some wood carving? Then up to Nuremburg I hitched, to visit Albrecht Dürer‘s house, which at least I used in a story since then. And so down to Munich, for foaming Steins and Wurst mit Senf.
Thereafter my recall of the subsequent two weeks goes moth-eaten (effect of more beer with my schoolchums?). My only further memory is of sitting on a sandy beach by the Danube looking at the huge abbey in Melk, Austria. We’d caught a train out of Vienna, the easier to resume hitchhiking.
I presume that CentriPress of Bussum (long since vanished, I think) pirated the novel, since I recall nothing about a sale, nor money, and I never saw a copy till now. Having stripped off the clingwrap, inside it does say “(c) 1980 by Ian Watson”, but nothing about Gollancz having published it, although cheekily, in English, “no part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher”. Drat, so I can’t even quote the first sentence…
Go on, be a devil! De wolkeloze hemel had de kleur van vergeet-me-nietjes. This seems highly likely to mean: “The cloudless sky had the colour of forget-me-nots,” (my vague memory of what I wrote guiding me).
Ah well, here it is in my hands at last, just 30 years late!—and only 8.94 Euros postage included to buy my own book.

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