Coming to The Twin fresh from Fallada's Wolf Among Wolves, with its brilliant interweaving of a myriad of characters in a disastrous social setting, is to move from Tolstoy to Chekhov. The novel is set on a farm in a rural area in Holland, on which Helmer, a man in his 60's, lives with his very elderly and infirm father. We learn that Helmer had an identical twin brother, Henk, who had died in a car accident about 40 years before. Henk was the one who was to have taken over the farm, Helmer having gone off to college in Amsterdam.
The two of them had been inseparable until Henk fell in love with Riet, a beautiful young woman whom he was to have married. After Henk's death she moved away and disappeared from the family's view. She turns up with the request that Helmer take in her eighteen-year old son named Henk — who is described as a rather sullen teen-ager with no sense of purpose in his life — to work on the farm. The past thus intrudes on the present.This is a small family drama, telling of sturdy people who never recovered from the loss of the twin brother who had been the centerpiece of their lives. They play out their assigned roles as they try to come to terms with their past in this very touching story. The Twin is a fascinating and unusual read.
— Jeremy Nussbaum
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