Ruyslinck, Ward (Pseudonym of Reimond Karel Maria de Belser) 1929–
Ruyslinck is a Dutch novelist and poet. Although considered one of the finest writers of the Netherlands, Ruyslinck is little known in the United States, largely because the bulk of his work has not appeared in translation.
The subtlety of Golden Ophelia … lies in its creating a picture of a 1984-like society that comes suspiciously to resemble the present…. The moral seems to be that it isn't only totalitarian regimes which reduce human values: they can reduce themselves quite informally, under conditions of material affluence….
[The novel at first appears to be] a satirical parable from which the English reader, spared the experience of a totalitarian regime or an enemy occupation, can feel safely detached: but personal as well as social morality is at issue. Golden Ophelia is both a rose and [the protagonist's] name for the country girl who grew it and with whom he falls in love. To reveal the ending would be unfair: the shock is not that the worm should have found out the rose's bed of joy but that the rose should have been expecting him. What harrows the reader is to hear in the voice of Ophelia the tones of a moral vulgarity that he recognizes as in some measure his own, for he has foreseen her fall and Stefan [the protagonist] has not. Masterly in the development of its imagery and in the ironic echoing of phrases of dialogue, Golden Ophelia is a novel of great economy that ends in a controlled explosion.
Roger Garfitt, "Breaking Curfew," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1975; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3834, September 5, 1975, p. 998.
What we want to hear we have translated promptly. Look how fast Animal Farm got about the world. So one assumes that Ward Ruyslinck's excitingly absurdist and grippingly disquieting meditation on our near-future has taken fourteen years to find an English publisher because it trades in the kind of dystopia we do not much care to relish. To be sure The Reservation casts—as do all gazings into brave new worlds—the obligatory cold eye on scientific inhumanism. But, and this distinguishes his bleakness from the frights of more popular visionaries, the god Ruyslinck sees failing is not Marxism but democracy….
If [the] anti-capitalist plotting were all, though, The Reservation would be impressive, but not nearly so impressive as in the event it is…. [What's] special about Ruyslinck's novel is that it shows people being denied the humanity they crave by "democratic" leaders who have gone in gleefully for brutism…. Ruyslinck's world has gone bestial. The novel builds a complex scaffolding of animal allusions. At best, beloveds are pets. At worst, men are predators, wolves and lions. People's names invoke animal connections: like Sim Ray the jazzman, and headmaster Whale. And of course Jonas [the protagonist] (or Jonah)—and it is only one of many nods towards Orwell—tumbles right inside the whale. "After all, why is your name Jonas?" Custodian of humane virtues, he is consigned, in the novel's most...
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Flemish writers, [Ruyslinck says,] should be concerned with European problems transcending Flemish parochialism. He has taken his own advice, and in scores of novels and short stories he uses a leitmotiv that is the antithesis of that Flemish gusto: the individual pitted against society and an unjust God. (p. 303)
The Depraved Sleepers (De ontaarde slapers, 1957) and Golden Ophelia (1966) … are permeated with postwar disenchantment: man is grotesquely ugly. He dreads aging, which ends in decay and death. Perceiving his animal nature as degrading, he fails in his love relationships. A perennial underdog, he loses his battle against a dehumanized society. A touch of black humor relieves the gloom: The protagonist in The Depraved Sleepers poses as a dignified mourner in a funeral procession to get a free ride. Behind black humor lurks black absurdity in Golden Ophelia when the hapless hero must properly petition to commit legal suicide. By distorting reality here to intensify his message, Ruyslinck has, unfortunately, weakened Golden Ophelia artistically.
On the whole, Ruyslinck's approach to his craft is conservative. Unlike his more experimental contemporaries, he continues a Flemish narrative tradition. A master of nuance, he manipulates language with virtuosity and relishes inventing new words. (pp. 303-04)
Peter Bruning, "World Literature in Review: 'The Depraved Sleepers' & 'Golden Ophelia'," in World Literature Today (copyright 1979 by the University of Oklahoma Press), Vol. 53, No. 2, Spring, 1979, pp. 303-04.