Bertus Aafjes

Bertus Aafjes
Sparkling fifties travelogues and poetry

Bertus Aafjes (1914 - 1993) started a study to become a priest, but started getting doubts about his priesthood destination and embarked on a journey to Rome on foot. He studied archeology in Rome and Louvain and began writing poetry. He lived the Mediterranean life, roamed through Italy, Greece and Egypt and wrote many stories about his encounters. Aafjes is also known for his Dutch translation of Homer's Odyssey. Travelogues gained a place in Dutch literature thanks to his work. He also explored the United States and Japan, the latter resulting in his Judge Ooka mystery stories.


An extensive collection of his best poetry selected by Aafjes himself. An example of his poetry in a translation of Machteld Hauer, which is included in her book Dance of Consciousness



He walked in the yet nameless morning,

With fresh long legs and longish arms;

His chest was young and fresh with ardour;

His eyes were open upon the things

His lips were on the very verge of naming,

Until the names rose from his lips,

As clear water, rising from the depth.

He'd scarcely given a name to anything yet

He let creation permeate his eyes

And dive into the ocean of his soul

As nude swimmers, agile, slender, and in multitudes,

Born from water in water

As water, entirely soulful water creatures,

Swarming and moist with originality,

Revolving within water's clarity,

Sowing fingers and toes throughout the depths,

Air bubbles of questions upward sending

And almost bursting under the mirror

Of the inexpressible, then suddenly,

Bubbling, climbing, becoming murmuring sound,

Cleaving its way to the palate,

And shivering, shouting a cry, a name.

And Adam cried a sound, a word, a name.

And Adam rang from naked sole to crown

Gave birth to words, sparkling nude of sense,

Naked as he was himself in the beginning.

In this book Aafjes follows the travels of Odysseus. For the reader curious about the real setting of the dramatic events that occurred nearly three thousand years ago, Aafjes is the perfect tour guide. He experiences the same landscapes as in ancient times, visits the same bays, feels the wind blowing from the same direction and follows the exact currents the legendary Odysseus traveled.

Along with his acclaimed Dutch translation of the Odyssey , his wanderings in the footsteps of Odysseus is definitely one of the highlights of Aafjes' oeuvre.

In Capriccio Italiano (short stories) Aafjes takes us to the streets, piazza's and alleys of Rome, Venice and Napels of the 1950's in search of his memories of his first trip to Italy in the mid-thirties.

Morgen bloeien de abrikozen / Tomorrow the apricots bloom (short stories) first appeared in 1954 and was reprinted many times since. Most of the stories are set in and around Alexandria and Cairo. Bertus Aafjes resided in Egypt between 1947 and 1949 and was inspired by the country and its inhabitants. His poignant stories on everyday life in Egypt are as fascinating as they are humorous. Wonderful descriptions of the colorful nature, and striking, witty portraits of people and situations alternate with apt descriptions of small tragic events. Aafjes observations are simply wonderful, with a deep respect for the people and their country.