Back to Oegstgeest Summary

  • Last updated on July 12, 2023
Title: Back to Oegstgeest

Author: Jan Wolkers
Publish Date: 1965
Genre: Autobiographical novel

Title: Back to Oegstgeest
Author: Jan Wolkers
Publish Date: 1965
Genre: Autobiographical novel
Page Length: N/A


Back to Oegstgeest is an autobiographical novel written by Jan Wolkers in 1965. Spanning various time periods of the author's life, the novel offers a deeply introspective exploration of his childhood, family dynamics, and the impact of World War II on his upbringing. Through vivid and poignant storytelling, Wolkers provides readers with a profound understanding of his experiences and their lasting effects.

The novel consists of six sections, each offering unique insights into Wolkers' life.

Section 1: The Family

In this section, Wolkers introduces the readers to his family and home life in Oegstgeest, a small town in the Netherlands. The author vividly describes his father's strict and authoritarian attitude, contrasting it with his mother's gentle and compassionate nature. Wolkers also showcases his complex relationship with his siblings, highlighting the various conflicts and bonds that exist within their family dynamic.

Section 2: The Garden

Wolkers delves into his childhood memories of the garden behind their house. The garden serves as a metaphorical space of solace and freedom for the author, where he can retreat and explore his creative inclinations. It becomes evident how the tranquil environment of the garden counterbalances the tumultuous nature of his family life.

Section 3: World War II

This section centers around the impact of World War II on Wolkers and his family. The author reflects on the fear, deprivation, and loss experienced during this time. Wolkers recounts witnessing the suffering of others, the air raids, and the Jewish neighbors who are ultimately deported. These experiences deeply affect the author, leaving a lasting imprint on his understanding of the world and the fragility of life.

Section 4: The School

Wolkers explores his educational experiences, particularly his time at the Catholic school in Oegstgeest. He portrays the harsh disciplinary methods employed by the priests and the oppressive atmosphere in the school. Through his depiction of the educational system, Wolkers sheds light on the rigid social structures and religious influences prevalent during his upbringing.

Section 5: Adolescence

This section delves into Wolkers' adolescence, characterized by rebellion, sexual awakening, and the gradual realization of his identity. The author reflects on his growing awareness of his attraction to both girls and boys, providing an honest account of his sexual experiences and encounters. Wolkers also portrays the cultural and sexual taboos of the time, challenging traditional societal norms.

Section 6: Reflective Revisitation

The final section of the novel brings the narrative to the present as Wolkers revisits his childhood home, prompting reflections on the passage of time and the changes that have occurred. Through this return to Oegstgeest, the author grapples with the notion of nostalgia and the impact of one's personal history on their present self. Wolkers ultimately finds solace and closure in accepting his past and embracing his present identity.


1. Family dynamics: Back to Oegstgeest explores the intricate relationships within Wolkers' family, illuminating the complexities of love, resentment, and the lasting impact of familial connections.

2. War and its aftermath: The novel delves into the profound effects of World War II on the author's upbringing, highlighting the enduring scars left by the conflict and individual experiences during wartime.

3. Identity and sexuality: Wolkers openly explores his sexual awakening, shedding light on the discovery of his identity as he challenges societal norms and navigates the complexities of his desires.

4. Time and memory: The reflective nature of the novel allows readers to contemplate the passage of time and the impact of personal history on one's present self. Wolkers' revisitation of Oegstgeest provides a poignant exploration of memory, nostalgia, and self-acceptance.

In summary, Back to Oegstgeest is an autobiographical novel written by Jan Wolkers that provides readers with a profound and introspective glimpse into the author's childhood, family dynamics, the impact of World War II, and his personal journey of self-discovery. Through vivid storytelling, Wolkers navigates themes of family, war, sexuality, and the passage of time. It is a compelling work that invites readers to contemplate their own histories and the influences that shape their lives.

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