Original Research

‘Ek skree my naam’ – Twee oorlogsverhalen vergeleken: Etienne van Heerdens Om te awol en W.F. Hermans’ Het behouden huis

Jan Douwe Westhoeve, Hein Viljoen
Literator | Vol 43, No 1 | a1842 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v43i1.1842 | © 2022 Jan Douwe Westhoeve, Hein Viljoen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 October 2021 | Published: 12 September 2022

About the author(s)

Jan Douwe Westhoeve, Moderne Nederlandse Letterkunde (Modern Dutch Studies), Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University, Leiden, Netherlands
Hein Viljoen, Research Unit: Languages and literature in the South African context, Faculty of Humanities, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa


‘I shout my name’ – two war stories compared: Etienne van Heerden’s Om te awol (To AWOL) and W.F. Hermans’ Het behouden huis (The house of refuge). The authors compare Om te Awol (1984) by the South-African author Etienne van Heerden, and Het behouden huis (1952) by the Dutch writer W.F. Hermans, to show how both writers process the experience of war. These novels, similar in their style, subject and plot, deal with identity in times of war (respectively the Border War and the Second World War) as well as the main character having to face its ensuing severe mental, cultural, and ideological effects. In this article, the authors argue that Van Heerden and Hermans both write about the problem of identity and the effects war has on culture and language. However, there is a key difference, mainly in Van Heerdens ideology critique and the possibility of healing, a possibility Hermans denies.


Van Heerden; W.F. Hermans; Border War; Border literature; Second World War; Dutch literature; comparative research; identity


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