Rijk de Jong / Aristide von Bienefeldt
About Walter's Birthday
When a male prostitute is invited to the birthday party of Walter - his lover and, much to his surprise, also his son - he has twenty four hours to make a choice: will he remain the superficial seller of love, living from minute to minute, or will he accept his role as a father?
From the perspective of an aging escort, Aristide von Bienefeldt tells the unusual story of two men whose lives intertwine during a devastating Parisian heat wave.
Is it lust, love or destiny?
Het Parool (Daily Newspaper), 31th May 2007, Arie Storm: Walter’s Birthday is about ancestry and tradition, and, in a highly accurate way, about the nonsense and the astonishing coincidence of these matters. [...] A much funnier book than sentimental and bleak family novels like The Silence of Maria Zachea by Judith Koelemeijer or [...] Arnon Grunberg’s petty ‘petit-bourgeois’ novel Tirza.
De Boekenkrant (Literary Magazine), 2nd May 2007, Judith van den Berg: With great linguistic precision, Aristide von Bienefeldt has written an impressive report that makes the reader wonder if such a relationship is really as inappropriate as it seems.
8Weekly (Literary magazine), 3rd November 2007, Frank van der Lecq: A remarkable and intelligently written book.
De Pers (Daily Newspaper), 5th June 2007, Dick Koppes: Hats off to the author who manages to provide the rather implausible plot of Walter’s Birthday with an illusion of probability, and to transform his first character into a most pleasant reader’s companion.
Rotterdams Dagblad (Daily Newspaper), 8th June 2007: In his novels Von Bienefeldt displays an immense talent for writing.
NRC Handelsblad (Daily Newspaper), 15th June 2007, Arjen Fortuin: Von Bienefeldt is much more than an entertaining novelist with a predilection for ‘daring’ realism. [...] Like all Von Bienefeldt’s novels, this novel is about imagination. In Walter’s Birthday this idea is illustrated by a story from Walter’s family history. At the peak of the First World War, a small aircraft crashed in the eastern part of France, in the vicinity of the house of Walter’s great-grandparents. Both travellers were killed: the pilot and his passenger, a rather festively dressed young man whose identity was never discovered. The way the anonymous dead man wins Walter’s great-grandmother’s heart is beautifully described:
For Walter’s great-grandmother there was not a shadow of a doubt: the young man who fell out of the sky had been on his way to a wedding party. Although no evidence was ever found to support this theory, she kept on believing it until the end of her life.
The young man (she names him ‘Walter’) is buried in the cemetary of the village:
Walter’s great-grandmother was holding the hand of her husband, she had rather preferred to hold the hand of the dead man.
[...] All lovers who appear in Von Bienefeldt’s novels evoke the same question: do they really exist? Or, to be more precise, does their love exist or is their love nothing more than a desire for love? The question being asked with increasing frequency makes it rather a rhetorical one. And that is how Von Bienefeldt, indirectly, gives us a view into the deep ravine hiding behind his daring realism.
About the author and former novels
Little is known about the author. Some say Aristide von Bienefeldt organized masquerade parties in Paris in the eigthies, with themes like S&M, Transvestism, Haute Couture, and ‘Disguise yourself as your favourite writer’, others claim he used to be an escort in London, with the names of respectable businessmen and other members of the British establishment in the directory of his Moleskine Pocket Diary.
To cut a long story shirt, Aristide von Bienefeldt was born the day Zambia was added to the growing list of African republics (24th October 1964).
His first novel was published in 2002. Confessions of a Son and Hier was both highly praised and sharply attacked by the Dutch and the Flemish press because of its explicit homosexual passages (‘Unquestionably written by a master’s hand’, Haarlems Dagblad, ‘His style is unbelievably good for a débutant’, Nederlands Dagblad, ‘A respectable publishing house wouldn’t have bothered to send this piece of trash back to its owner’, Twentse Courant, ‘It is a great pleasure to read Confessions, if it were only for the comical predictability that each man who crosses the protaginist’s path, ends up having sex with him, NRC Handelsblad).
Confessions of a Son and Heir tells the story of a young man who is driven by an unlimited sexual hunger to experience the seamy side of life in Paris and in London, at the time of the millennium change. He vacillates between life and death, spitting on petty bourgeois morals. In the meantime he fights against the consequences of a nervous breakdown that paralyses his spirit like a diabolical conspiracy. The young man is the product of the alliance between an aristocratic lineage and a traditional Dutch family of farmers. In less than half a century his noble ancestors dissipated a fortune they had acquired in a highly dubious fashion, while his peasant forefathers tried to ensure themselves a place in paradise, by means of hard labour and multiple copulation blessed by God’s own hand. In order to get the most out of his life, he turns every second inside out. Confessions of a Son and Heir is, it goes without saying, a novel about love.
In The Odours of the Reprehensible (essays on the reprehensible in modern literature, focusing on destruction, psychosis, outburst, marginalisation, M/M publishers, Amsterdam 2004), the Belgian philosopher Hugo Bousset dedicates a chapter to Aristide von Bienefeldt (The Urge to Fill): Whilst reading the first novel of Aristide von Bienefeldt, Confessions of a Son and Heir, two things came to my mind. First: finally an interesting debut, a novel that thrills me. Secondly: I am going to re-read books of Georges Bataille and about Georges Bataille, from which the work of Von Bienefeldt have arisen.
In 2003, von Bienefeldt’s second novel, A Decent Young Man, was published to more sharply-divided opinion: one Flemish critic spoke about the ‘magnificent’ Aristide von Bienefeldt, while another one wished him a slow and painful death, preferably as a result of AIDS (HP De Tijd, June 2003).
In February 2004 the beloved dog of the President of the United States died and Aristide von Bienefeldt was chosen as one of the thirteen most promising young authors by Magazijn (the Dutch Granta).