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An intoxicating ballet of words

High Key

Pol Hoste

In ‘High Key’ – a technical term for a style of photography in which images consist of mostly light tones – Hoste tries to create a new reality via the imagination and techniques of association. The author endeavours to chart our multicultural, capitalistic, globalised world on the basis of a few marginal notes. The story departs from traditional narrative styles and follows its own unique logic.

‘High Key’ is constructed from a series of ‘monologues, dances and stories’ that can be read as improvisations or variations on a theme. With the help of textual fragments, the author recounts the lives of characters that have a role to play in the world of the arts, such as writers, dancers etc.

Lively and full of surprises
De Groene Amsterdammer

The characters’ search for their inner life history takes shape in reflective dialogues and short stories written in a highly evocative style. Their voices do not produce statements, but rather scraps of conversations with a rigorously instinctive charge. ‘High Key’ should perhaps be read as an incantation or a magic spell.

Like poetry. Like music. Like singing.
De Volkskrant
‘Intoxicating ballet of words’
Joris Gerits, author, professor of literature, reviewer

‘In a manner unique in the Dutch language, Pol Hoste’s oeuvre, with ‘High Key’ as its culmination, holds up a mirror to the reader reflecting our fragmented existence in a world that has grown complex, multicultural and transnational.

I’ve read and reviewed Hoste’s novels since he made his debut with ‘The Changes’ in 1979. As professor of literature, I regularly focused on ‘High Key’ in my classes in the 1990s because I considered it an excellent novel to introduce students to postmodern literature and the study of literature. I have also written about it in professional journals because I am convinced of the irreplaceability of language-critical prose, of texts without ‘narrative’, the interpretation of which is not steered towards a predetermined goal.

‘High Key’ is an intoxicating ballet of words and its author is a choreographer of text. As the jury rightly observed when it awarded Pol Hoste the Arkprijs van het Vrije Woord in 2002, the Dutch speaking literary landscape would be seriously impoverished if this challenging prose, from an author who stubbornly upholds his own artistic vision, were to disappear.’