It was written by one of the four (or five) "Lions" of post-war Dutch literature. The story concerns an old retired actor who lives alone. He has had some mysterious dealings with his older (or younger) family members. One day he receives an anonymous letter in the post offering him one last role in a Shakespeare revival (King Lear, Hamlet, The Tempest?). He decides against it then changes his mind...

  • And then what? Do you remember what happens next in the story? (It's OK to add spoilers if that would help people to identify it.)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 8:45

1 Answer 1


Most likely, this is the novel Hoogste tijd (1985) by Harry Mulisch, who was considered as one of the "big three" of post-war literature in the Netherlands.

The novel's main character is Willem (Uli) Bouwmeester, a retired actor who used to work mainly in night clubs and revues. He receives an offer for the lead role in "Noodweer" (literally "Tempest"), a play about the stage actor Pierre de Vries. Uli accepts the offer but the strain of the preparations and rehearsals causes a stroke. He dies and is "reborn" as Pierre de Vries; as Pierre de Vries he plays the lead role in the première of Shakespeare's The Tempest at the Stadsschouwburg of Amsterdam at the end of the nineteenth century. (In other words, Uli travels back in time / becomes Pierre de Vries.)

In the sources I found on the web, i.e. this Dutch Wikipedia article and this review by a secondary-school pupil, there is no mention of an anonymous letter or of mysterious dealings with other family members. (Uli comes from a family of actors but had only a second-rate career in comparison with the others.)

  • Thank you, @ChristopheStrobbe BUT, I really don't know what to say: it's 90% there but I REALLY don't remember the stroke/time travel!?... j.
    – John Stark
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 19:14
  • @JohnStark I think you will only be able to confirm whether my answer is correct after (re)reading Hoogste tijd. I'll also try to get hold of the novel myself.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 10:00

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