The Tree and the Vine de Dola de Jong

de Dola de Jong - Género: English
libro gratis The Tree and the Vine


"A jewel hidden in plain sight."—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

"De Jong depicts the darker, dangerous side of the world of same-sex desire, and the way it's a source of torment—physical and psychological—for those who exist within it."—The Paris Review

When Bea meets Erica at the home of a mutual friend, this chance encounter sets the stage for the story of two women torn between desire and taboo in the years leading up to the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. Erica, a reckless young journalist, pursues passionate but abusive affairs with different women. Bea, a reserved secretary, grows increasingly obsessed with Erica, yet denial and shame keep her from recognizing her attraction. Only Bea's discovery that Erica is half-Jewish and a member of the Dutch resistance—and thus in danger—brings her closer to accepting her own feelings.

First published in 1954 in the Netherlands, Dola de Jong's The Tree and the Vine was a groundbreaking work in its time for its frank and sensitive depiction of the love between two women, now available in a new translation.

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For me, that’s where the war began, in Erica’s room.

For every story of love there are also stories of hardship love must endure to survive. The Tree and the Vine, written in 1952 by Dutch author Dola de Jong had to overcome many of its own struggles in order to bring this beautiful story of love to light. Despite her established success, de Jong’s novel of two women in Amsterdam grappling with emotional entanglements at the outbreak of WWII was deemed “shameless” and “unpublishable”. It took the intervention of many friends and her American editors to finally bring de Jong’s story of the reserved Bea and her more erratic roommate Erica to print. Now with Kristen Geherman’s exquisite new translation, readers can once again experience what de Jong called her favorite novel. While much of the novel may feel less-than-original by modern standards and the sexuality is so delicately mentioned that many could miss it entirely and only focus on the vague accusations of poor morals thrown at Erica, this book is more than just an artifact from LGBTQ+ literary history and shines as an elegant and deeply emotive psychological novel of frustrated emotions beset by the chaos and threats of violence from war.

Things aren’t fairly distributed in the world.

Erica and Bea are wonderfully dynamic characters and Bea’s narration hums with such potent insight and emotion despite a sparse and direct prose style. Narrated over a decade after the events, there is a tenderness in her telling that betrays remorse as much as fondness as Bea has yet to fully detangle and digest her feelings for Erica and what has transpired. There is a shadow that looms over the novel with ominous interjections from the present juxtaposed with what Bea understood of Erica at the time. ‘Those early days with Erica were a mystery to me,’ Bea reflects. Erica tells tragic life stories but always with an air of humor that Bea cannot comprehend. ‘There’d come a time when Erica wouldn’t be able to see the humor in all this anymore, but that wasn’t until much later.’ While Bea’s accounts of events initially show Erica as lighthearted, full of energy and always eager for what comes next, she juxtaposes this with insinuations that Erica is a tragic figure which builds for a perfectly unstable emotional tone to the novel that compels the reader forwards the way Erica pulls Bea along the streets to theaters and bars. The reader is quickly as engulfed and overwhelmed by the ominous feverish tone as young Bea was in her feelings towards the enigmatic Erica.

Even now, with my broader understanding of humanity,’ Bea ruminates on her friend, ‘I wonder whether what I took to be a tree growing off in the distance wasn’t in face a lifeless trunk, its own leave strangled by the vines growing up around it.’ While Erica isn’t the most original character one will encounter, Bea’s feelings for her are sure to attach her into your own heart. Erica is a character who tempts fate and pushes headlong into life always in the extremes. She dates women who fight violently with her, she drinks heavily, wages a vicious war of attrition on Bea’s boyfriend to drive him away and get sole custody of her roommate back, and moves at a pace that has Bea always pleading for her to slow down. Later on there are scenes reminiscent of something from Fitzgerald with poor yet elegantly dressed artist types drinking in dilapidated apartments, but through Bea’s eyes all the drunken joy has drained from the frame to reveal a depressed and painful scene of people living out their anxieties as if to more quickly snuff out their lives. Destined for self-destruction, it would seem. de Jong's tender examination of Erica makes it easy to empathize with her, especially as fragments of insight into the mystery of her childhood are slowly pieced together.

Maybe I knew I’d been trying to save a sinking ship.

Bea cares for Erica, literally and emotionally. When the Nazi’s finally come, Bea attempts to help Erica flee, her being half-Jewish. The world events feel very peripheral, however, with Bea’s feeling for Erica always remaining forefront. The war is still felt all around, particularly through it's reverberations in society. People are fleeing while others are joining the Nazis, such as Erica's own mother becoming a party member and asking to give Hitler a chance because she thinks he will save the European economy. Much of the book is Bea in the present still trying to process her feelings, all of which are still tinged with shame and guilt having grown up in a society that viewed same-sex sexuality as a immoral. She never fully accepts what is felt between them, but it is there despite de Jong’s very light references to it.
I couldn’t make out what she said and she had to repeat it.She never spoke those few words again. It wasn’t necessary. We both knew they were irrevocable and would last forever. We’ve accepted it, each in our own way.
The delicate touches of love amidst the maelstroms of grief, anger, jealousy, and fear are truly moving. This is a book that crawled so that later LGBTQ+ novels could walk and run. The ending is tragic leaving the reader confronting a void as the novel abruptly ends much those in wartime find themselves looking at the voids created in their own lives. This is also why it is important that now, with the privilege of LGBTQ+ characters becoming more normalized in fiction, books can depict their lives and loves without it having to be some monumental or tragic event in order to justify telling them and simply let people exist in the pages because they exist.

The Tree and the Vine is a lovely and bittersweet little novel that I am happy to have discovered through this new translation. It is a beautiful piece of history and contains an powerful dynamic between its two heroines. Erica and Bea will definitely reside in my mind and heart from here on out.

3.5/5lgbt wwii107 s Henk937

More interesting as a document of the frantic time before The Netherlands were invaded in the Second World War than as a full fledged lesbian love novel
... and I submitted, resignedly and with great reluctance.

I've read The Tree and the Vine in Dutch and found it quite easy to read in terms of language, you do note some phrases which are no longer in use but since Dola de Jong doesn't seem to be very flourishing in her style the impact of time seems limited.
The English title is more apt than the Dutch one, which only covers Bea, the narrator staying at home waiting, while Erica is out and about. The English title evokes a suffocating relationship between two people, potentially fatal, and captures the feel of the book much better.

I must say that the level of obliqueness, and the way Bea manages not to say a lot of things, made me feel sometimes as if I was reading a Kazuo Ishiguro novel. Remains of the Days (with a narrator helping someone with non-pure intentions) and Never Let Me Go (with young people recounting their lives and living towards something dreadful) both came to mind in that sense.

I was rather annoyed with Bea overall, she seems such a pushover. I still can't fully understand why she would be so dedicated to Erica or conversely, why she would make her choice for Bea.
The end is very sudden, feels rushed in a sense. An interesting book as a document of a strange time nonetheless, and the author had a fascinating live as well and deserves more recognition in the Dutch canon.

Dutch quote:
Het is toch immers zo, dat de oorlog dikwijls een alibi of uitweg biedt voor de mens in het nauw, die zelf geen redding of toekomst meer ziet en die stilletjes op een catastrofe van buitenaf hoopt om een eind te maken aan de onhoudbare toestand waarin hij zich bevindt.21 s Doug2,256 784

2.5, rounded up.

This has really more historical interest than being a compelling story in itself, or having any great literary value (although it's somewhat hard to say, since it's translated - although this new translation itself seems smooth and entirely adequate). Perhaps it's a question of expectation, since the synopsis makes it sound much more of a romance - it's basically about two women who meet casually through a mutual acquaintance, decide to room together, and then one (Erica) dominates the other (narrator Bea), and treats her the doormat she is.

Erica is so unpleasant it is hard to fathom why Bea puts up with her (another character even calls her a pushover). It eventually transpires that Erica is actively pursuing lesbian relationships with other women (and rubbing it in Bea's face), while Bea slowly (VERY slowly) becomes aware that perhaps her obsession with Erica might be due to the same proclivities on her part. But it is all so 'coded' and oblique as not to be of much interest - and when the inevitable conclusion comes via the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam, the ending is so rushed, it doesn't have much impact.

Apparently, the book was quite scandalous when it was first published in the year of my birth (1954), but it is really quite tame nowadays. It is a quick read, but I can't say I was ever more than mildly invested in it.14 s Ruben578 57

A Dutch novella from 1954 that initially remained unpublished due to its shameless nature. Unfortunately, it proved not to be shameless at all :)

It is about two young women rooming together and developing feelings for one another, but unable to talk about them. One woman is the caring type, always at home making sure the house is clean and there is food on the table. The other is restless, wreckless and often out the entire doing who knows what.

For the first 100 pages I felt this is more of historical interest than literary interest. It often felt an exercise in writing. However, the last 30 pages changed my mind and ultimately I find it a very accomplished novella. The two characters seem to moving in circles and it slowly becomes clear that the only way their destructive rhythm is broken has to be the looming war.

Very glad this was brought to my attention by @Royce.
dutch-literature10 s Matthew623 44

The Tree and the Vine was originally published in Holland in 1954 and is being released in a wonderful new English translation by Transit Books. The story takes place in the late 1930's run-up to the German invasion of the Netherlands.

Our narrator Bea is relating the events of the novel from a remove of a couple of decades. Bea is a shy and repressed young office employee who meets Erica through a mutual friend. The two become roommates and form a close but sometimes ineffably strained friendship. Erica is impulsive and often reckless and leads an exciting life. Bea, for her part, is unable or unwilling to admit why she is becoming so obsessed with Erica.

Revolutionary for its time, this book is a marvel. The writing is spare and elegant and there is so much more in the subtext than on the page, such depth of feeling just below the surface. Highly recommended.published-2020 queer sub-transit-books ...more7 s Jeść treść293 634 Read

Lek, opatrunek i ukojenie na dosłowności, uproszczenia i nadmierne tłumaczenie czytelnikom świata i relacji między bohaterami. Tu tego nie ma – Dola de Jong gra niedopowiedzeniami i zmusza do prowadzenia literackiego śledztwa na własną rękę. Bo tak naprawdę kim są nasze główne bohaterki? Co je popycha ku sobie? Skąd czerpią swoje motywacje i jak widzą swoje własne miejsce w świecie?
Wszystko to można zebrać z okruszków rozrzuconych tu i tam, ale na gotową interpretację i wykładnię na temat tego, jak ten cały świat pogryźć i przetrawić, nie ma co liczyć.

Bardzo lubię, gdy rzuca mi się podobne intelektualne wyzwania. Będę czekała na kolejne książki tej autorki, które (oby!) zostaną w Polsce wydane. Po "Strażniczce domu" de Jong to dla mnie nazwisko do czytania w ciemno. 8 s Tanja7

Dola de Jong deserves to be rediscovered. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It's an outrage that both de Jong's Dutch and American publishers refused to publish it because they were afraid to publish something about lesbian love. I read the Dutch version (she initially wrote the story in Dutch and the Dutch title is De Thuiswacht) and I agree with reviewer Marnix Gijsen, who said this book is a literary masterpiece.8 s Krzysztof Cieślik44 123

Poruszająca, ładnie rezonuje z Ditlevsen, choć na pierwszy rzut oka to dość prosta proza psychologiczna5 s Anna188 14

No cóż …4 s Alwynne738 986

Lesbian pulp fiction was a bestselling genre in the 50s; between lurid covers otherwise taboo subjects were served up as cautionary tales, in which transgressive women had one of three options, “marriage, insanity or suicide.” Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt (Carol) was a notable departure, a romantic, literary exploration of two women’s developing relationship. Reissued in a new translation, Dola de Jong’s The Tree and the Vine’s been compared to Highsmith’ landmark novel so I expected something similar but the only hint of Highsmith was the faint trace of the kind of self-deceiving character common to her trademark, psychological crime.

The Tree and the Vine’s narrated by Bea, WW2’s over, and exiled Bea’s still troubled by her past relationship with Erica,

“Here in America, I’ve had my share of adventures but nothing has ever become of them. In my life, men have always been shadows waiting in the wings. There was never room for them on stage because Erica held the spotlight.”

Right from the start there’s something unsettling about Bea’s story of life with Erica. They’re in Amsterdam, it’s the late 1930s, rumours of war are circulating but Bea’s so fixated on Erica, what Erica does, where Erica goes, who Erica sees, that the outside world barely registers. They’re an unly pairing, as Bea continually highlights: her comfortable moneyed background versus Erica’s ‘messy’, working-class upbringing; Bea’s conventionally feminine style versus Erica’s boyish crop and “socialist youth” dress sense. But despite, or maybe precisely because of their differences, Bea rents an apartment with Erica less than a month after they meet.

All individual versions of events are partial but Bea’s is particularly contradictory, there are odd gaps in her account undermining her credibility, she mentions a long hospital stay just before she’s introduced to Erica but doesn’t reveal what it was for; she continually represents herself as Erica’s benefactor, paying for meals and furniture, insisting that a boyfriend includes Erica in their outings. But the impression she creates is vastly different, there’s a claustrophobic, suffocating atmosphere hanging over Bea’s obsessive detailing of Erica’s behaviour, and something overly-controlling about her repeated financial and social interventions. Control seems key to Bea’s entire personality, and much of the narrative hinges on its gradual erosion, for almost half of de Jong’s novel very little seems to happen yet Bea’s increasingly agitated. Although there are repeated clues, it’s only after she spots Erica and another woman with a group that includes ”…a strapping, middle-aged butch woman,” that Bea comes close to admitting what’s causing her emotional turmoil. But then war arrives, and Erica’s half-Jewish heritage and growing political activism raise a different threat to her future with Bea.

The Tree and the Vine’s difficult to characterise, I thought Bea’s initial fascination with Erica often had a disturbing quality, Frederick stalking Miranda in The Collector. It was only as the war reached Holland that the narrative opened up, although it frequently tips over into melodrama: borrowing from the codes of lesbian pulp as Bea depicts elements of Erica’s conduct as somehow degenerate, implies her love of women’s a pathology resulting from a difficult childhood, and at one point frantically scrubs off the remnants of Erica’s ”aroma of lavender.” But de Jong also suggests that Bea’s ‘policing’ of Erica, mirrors a rigid self-policing, a strategy that’s ultimately aimed at repressing her own desire. And de Jong’s rendering of the traumatic legacy of Bea’s self-denial seemed the most successful aspect of The Tree and the Vine, a conflict that doesn’t cease to haunt Bea, and echoes the real-life conflicts of many woman of her era.

Rating: 3.5fiction transit-books work-in-translation4 s Bandit4,746 530

An obscure classic of lesbian fiction. Yes, please. I’ve never heard of this book, until our library’s recent commitment to inclusivity has introduced me to it. This is a new translation, but then again it’s all new to me. The title, actually, isn’t an accurate translation and I’m not sure how they came up with it going by the original, which is literally something Homewait, but tree and vine are context accurate and aptly represent the main relationship of the novel between the two young women. The vine strangles the tree and yet the tree welcomes the vine, not quite symbiotic, more along the lines of sadomasochism, but there you have it, that’s the main dynamic here. Not quite love, more along the lines of a repressed obsession, when a modest unexciting young secretary meets a wild younger thing named Erica and decides to dedicate herself to her. Erica is flighty, noncommittal, mercurial, complicated and moody. It’s difficult to understand the attraction, but it’ there. The two start off as roommates, evolve into sort of best friends, but it’s never a balanced relationship, In fact, Erica casually screws up her best friend’s chance at romance, but has no qualms about having affairs of her own. Erica is romantically and otherwise impetuous and financially challenged. She has a difficult relationship with her mother and an almost nonexistent one with her father, but the latter is a Jew and that becomes increasingly and terrifyingly relevant as WWII dawns on Europe. Her friend, after supporting her financially and emotionally for months and moths is now desperately trying to save her, while Erica has affairs and squanders her chances. It’s difficult to say if it’s the careless stupidity of youth or some sort of a death wish, but either way a terribly dangerous attitude to have for a half Jewish girl in Amsterdam in 1940. So that’s the novel without giving too much away. A book very light in page count and very heavy in context. Then again there’s something inherently wrong with the concept of light war fiction. Easy to see how revolutionary this might have been back in 1951. So from a historical perspective this is great, in fact it’s great as a work of historical fiction in general, it represents the ambiance of the time very well. And as a character drama it’s …well, it’s complicated. The characters are not able, at all. One’s too tragic in her obsequious slavish devolution. One is too infuriatingly careless with her life and those around her. And yet the writing is good enough to still draw you in, despite the characters’ shortcomings. It’s a terribly imperfect relationship written terribly well, set in a world gone mad. Interesting read. Definitely worth the time.4 s Marie-Therese412 187

3.5 stars

Psychologically acute, well-paced, and tightly structured-more a novella than a novel, perhaps.

While this is primarily the rather small-scale story of a dysfunctional relationship between two very different women (one repressed and conventional and the other wildly self-destructive), the gruesome and threatening shadow throughout of Hitler and the German occupation of Holland gives the narrative significant weight and sombreness. De Jong make what I think is both an interesting and astute choice to allow the first-person narrator, Bea, to reflect openly on her past actions and statements as she recounts her tale. This lends the narrative a bittersweet, rueful quality that is very effective and makes Bea a more sympathetic character than she might otherwise be. Because we only see Erica, the wild child, through Bea's eyes, she's less convincing and those parts of the book centered around Erica's escapades sometimes seem slightly hollow, almost as if the reader is feeling the same absence of the character as Bea experiences in the novel.

I don't think this is a "great" novel or even a significant novel, it's most certainly not a "pulp" lesbian novel as some reviewers seem to have hoped, but it is a good book and one well worth reading for those interested in lesbian literature from an earlier era. dutch-literature lesbian-literature lgbtqi ...more4 s yenni m344 23

Lesbian fiction from 1951. The detail to the leads behaviour, observations and movements when around Erica, the unrealised interest, I wasn't expecting to connect with. I related to feeling drawn to people this in my own history. Delighted to have quickly noted why this is problematic and is best not encouraged despite confusing brief deliciousness.3 s Oliwia (flea_book)135 7

sᴛʀᴀᴢ̇ɴɪᴄᴢᴋᴀ ᴅᴏᴍᴜ to opowieść osadzona w realiach II Wojny Światowej, która jest ważnym tłem kameralnej historii dwóch kobiet. Relacja Bei i Eriki rozwija się powoli i subtelnie. Powieść nie emanuje nadmiarem emocji i seksualności — wszystko jest wyważone i otulone nutą tajemnicy, którą czytelnik sam musi zinterpretować.

Książka zakończona jest dość wnikliwym posłowiem Tłumacza, co daje większy wgląd w całość — uważam to za świetną decyzję, ponieważ czytelnicy mają okazję poznać większy kontekst historyczny i językowy.

Cieszę się, że dzięki Wydawnictwu pojawiają się na naszym rynku często zapomniane dzieła literatury światowej
& jestem bardzo ciekawa innych tytułów z serii Cymelia
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