Nachtverhaal by Paul Biegel

Paul Biegel
(cover art by Lidia Postma)
Malmberg 2002
New price not available

Book review | Nachtverhaal by Paul Biegel | 4 stars


Synopsis (English translation below)*

Op de zolder van een oude villa staat een poppenhuis. In het poppenhuis woont een kabouter. Op een stormachtige avond wordt er geklopt. Er staat een fee voor de deur. De kabouter is eigenlijk een beetje bang voor de fee, maar laat haar toch binnen. De fee vertelt ’s nachts een heel griezelig verhaal aan de kabouter. Het verhaal is zo spannend en gruwelijk dat de kabouter er iedere nacht voor opblijft.
Maar wat er dan met de kabouter en zijn vrienden gebeurt, is nog griezeliger dan het nachtverhaal zelf.

In de attic of an old villa is a doll house. In the doll house lives a gnome. On a stormy night there is knocking on the door. It’s a fairy. The gnome is actually a little scared of the fairy, but let’s her in nonetheless. That night, the fairy tells the gnome a scary story. The story is so scary and horrid that the gnome stays up for it every night.
But what happens then to the gnome and his friends, is even scarier than the story itself.


If it wasn’t clear from the synopsis (and it’s a bit vague), this is a reimagining of 1001 Nights. A little less gruesome though, because the fairy is not in fact telling stories to stay alive. I love that this story is done with a twist. It still has the main characteristic of the original story; exciting stories with cliffhangers, but has been made much easier to grasp in a small book for younger audiences (according to the book 10-13 years old, though I think I would’ve read this at around 8 or 9).

The writing is absolutely amazing. Almost poetic. Certain sentences roll so easily off your tongue! A lot of the happier, giddy moments have been expressed in the book with enumerations that rhyme, or are alliterations. This is so much fun to read! It’s like you’re dancing while reading, if that makes any sense.

Besides that, the different creatures in the book are great to get to know. Most in the tales of the fairy are fairy-tale creatures, while those in the life of the gnome are humans, a rat, a toad and a cat (all of which rhyme in Dutch: rat, pad, kat).

On top of that, the art work in the book is amazing. They are such interesting illustrations with amazing details!

Unfortunately this lovely reimagining has not been translated into any other language, but if you’re able to read in Dutch, it’s definitely worth a read!

Ps. I really need a prettier edition of this book

*Freely translated from Dutch

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