The Angel Maker by Stefan Brijs is a creepily atospheric novel about one man’s twisted relationship with religion and science.
After many years away from his home town of Wolfheim Dr Victor Hoppe returns with three babies and no explanations. Surrendered to a convent at birth by parents disgusted by his hare lip, and thereafter sent to religious boarding schools by his guilty father, Victor’s understanding of the world is coloured from an extremely early age by religion as seen through the lens of his un-diagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome. His brilliance and his unusual world view combine in an inevitable slide towards a viscerally horrific ending.
The Angel Maker was originally published in Dutch. Other than some occasionally jarring word choices it is well translated by Hester Velmans. I would be interested in how the tone compares between the original and the English version. The darkly atmospheric tone, and matter of fact narration seem consistent with what I know of Dutch literature in this genre, but an insiders perspective would be interesting. It is always one of my biggest regrets when I read translated works that I can’t read it in the original language.
The book is divided into three parts. The first starts with Victor’s return to Wolfheim; the the second goes back in time to Victor’s first successful attempt at cloning, then further back to his birth, filling in all the relevant details up to his return to Wolfheim as an adult; then the third follows on roughly where the first left off. The non-chronological structure of the story allows the reader to form an opinion of Victor based purely on his actions in Wolfheim, before they learn about his past actions and begin to discover his motivations. As the gaps are filled in for the reader there is a slowly building horror as they begin to understand where the story is heading. The climax of the story is shocking, and simultaneous the only logical scenario. Throughout the book, a sense of horror and pity blend together in a way causes the reader to closely examine the relationship between good and evil.