Steeg: Kroniek van een zere plek

Arnold Schalks


Artist Novel, 20 x 12,5 cm, Dutch, 208 pages, publisher: Primavera pers, ISBN: 978-90-5997-291-9.
Materials: ink, paper

Collection: Collection M HKA, Antwerp (Inv. no. B 2030/296).

Literary synopsis

Steeg narrates the lives of five inhabitants (all of them born around 1900) of the Kloksteeg (Bell-alley) in the Dutch city of Leiden. Initially, their courses of life hardly touch. However, in the interbellum they all end up in a personal crisis, inescapably crossing each others paths: Micha Kan, the highly gifted Jewish bakers' son who refuses to become the successor of his father, neglects his family duties to pursue a career as a lawyer. Joop Koutstael, the bald headed barber, who thinks that he can cure his wife's hair loss with an extract of the locks of hair he cuts of, is consumed by guilt feelings about her early death. Franz Joseph Kasseler, the young police officer ruthlessly trained by his dominant father, discovers his suppressed feelings and threatens to loose his self esteem. Onno Brooshooft, son of a GP and junior medical student, decides to remain patient rather than become a physician. And, finally, Roel van der Beijl, the half-blinded gooder and idealist who gets fatally trapped in a local drama.

Relation of the novel to the artist’s practice

Steeg is an extension of Arnold Schalks' conceptual œuvre, which is rooted in language. His visual artworks are attempts to represent abstract, language-related concepts by converting them into visual, tangible objects and installations. For the writing of Steeg, Schalks reversed the process: he meticuslously visualised each concrete scene of the narration and transformed them into language.

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