‘Ridders’ (‘Knights’) by Rascha Peper

Suggested by an anonymous editor at Tzum.info, a leading Dutch literary website. Tzum annually organises a competition for the best sentence published in Dutch during the previous year. The cash prize is equal to the number of words in the sentence.

This story almost immediately immerses the reader in a clandestine relationship between a young woman and her elderly lover, mapping out memory and loss inexcruciating detail, as the following excerpt confirms.The rain has stopped and a stiff, warm breeze is blowing. Against a dark-blue sky, tatters of black cloud race past a moon in its first quarter. The streets are quiet. A weekday night.
 He has wrapped his arm around her and she lets him set the pace, which adds stability and rhythm to her unsteadiness. This makes for pleasant walking, especially if he keeps quiet.
The narrow bed in her dorm room creaks disconcertingly under his weight. He is too colossal, in every way, for these tiny quarters full of girly accessories, dried flowers and frilly cushions. A lion in a boudoir. He has chairs at home that even two men cannot lift. Standing by the window a moment ago, he lifted a fragile, light-blue bottle full of cuttings off the windowsill, holding it up to the light to study the delicate roots, before smiling and replacing it with the utmost care. He is studying her with much the same smile now.
An unbearable gaze, prompting her to pull him towards her by his shirt sleeves. He is warm and heavy and smells of cigars. He speaks – his voice a double bass – then he kisses her gently, as if any greater force might snap her like a stick of cinnamon. She trembles under his caressing hands.

Published in Hollands Maandblad, 1988. Available online in Dutch here

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