Biography of a Fly


Beautifully illustrated book about friendship and life, by International Booker Prize-longlisted author Jaap Robben

In his inimitable style, Jaap Robben tells the story of a fly, from the moment it enters the world as a larva right up to its deathbed. Fly befriends a buzzard and throws himself into life with gusto, however short that life may be. Biography of a Fly is a witty and moving story about how we are all ultimately alone, and yet also together.

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Publication date

23 September 2021




Jaap Robben

Jaap Robben is a poet, playwright, performer, and acclaimed children’s author. You Have Me to Love, his …


Paul Faassen is an award-winning Dutch illustrator, author, photographer, teacher, and visual columnist.

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Praise for Biography of a Fly

“It is a perfect marriage of art and words, with Faasen’s simple palette and combination of extreme close-ups and wide angles reflecting the specificity of the fly’s life, and the big, existential themes that Robben’s words convey … so winning and so full of heart.”
WEST CAMEL, Riveting Reviews

Het Parool

A fly isn’t born; a fly wakes up somewhere in the middle of its life. This is just one of the wonderful sentences from this brilliant biography of a fly, for children aged between 9 and 99.”

Praise for Summer Brother

“A deeply humane novel centred on a disabled man, his heroic younger brother and an unreliable, partly criminal father living on an all but derelict site. The book is generous to all its flawed characters, is beautifully written, and humanises lives of abject poverty on the edge of squalor and disaster.”

“I just ADORED the novel Summer Brother. Bravo, bravo is what I have to say. It kind of saved me in a way.”
ELIZABETH STROUT, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

“It’s an impressive novel: a deceptively simple story of lives at the margin, with a child’s viewpoint perfectly pitched and sustained, it is cleanly written and powerfully imagined. It reminded me of Claire Keegan’s novella Foster, which has a girl narrator of a similar age, and is an outstanding book. But the challenges are greater here, as Robben deals with all kinds of inflammable material, and does it with such tact and understanding.”

“The central premise of Summer Brother, Jaap Robben’s evocative coming-of-age novel, longlisted for the International Booker prize, is that love can thrive in the unlikeliest of places…It is easy to forget this is a work in translation, so deft is David Doherty’s rendition. Robben depicts the limitations of a dysfunctional family but also celebrates empathy as a force for good.”
The Observer

“Dutch author Jaap Robben’s second novel shows us the shedding of innocence. Summer Brother, translated by David Doherty, shakes out over a hot summer, during that potent lull when characters so splendidly boil, burst and bloom…Summer Brother grapples with the consequences of carelessness and the abuse of power and trust, even if the violation is unintentional…Robben is wonderful at drawing characters with just a few deliberate strokes…Like a photographer shooting a portrait, Robben captures his subjects in Summer Brother in a focused close-up.”
New York Times

“A sensitive yet unsentimental depiction of poverty and disability from the perspective of an abled character.”
Kirkus Reviews

“The book’s language is precise and forthright as Brian observes, and portrays in stark terms, the intense, awkward, and lovely actions of those around him. Sharp exchanges reveal characters who are witty and earnest in equal measure. Summer Brother is a harrowing novel about dysfunctional family dynamics and the universal awkwardness of being a teenager.”
Foreword Reviews

“A tragic tale of generational dysfunction”
Publishers Weekly

“Refined and subtle, and at the same time one of the most striking voices in contemporary Dutch literature”
LIZE SPIT, author of The Melting

“A writer who crosses the ball with such elegance that there’s no need to hammer it home.”
De Volkskrant

“Subtle and refined.”
NRC Handelsblad

“Robben’s style is deceptively simple. You don’t have to be an adult to read Summer Brother, yet Robben’s imagery, subtle humor, and surprising plot will connect with the most literate of readers. The novel gives a moving insight into a boyhood that gives pause for reflection.”
De Standaard

“Like no other writer, Robben can empathize with the mind of a child and he imbues the reader with this open and uninhibited outlook as the story unfolds.”

Summer Brother is a wry and funny book about a damaged family.”
Algemeen Dagblad

“Lovingly, Robben shows Brian’s hapless attempts to deal with pills and full diapers, yet all the while he is working mercilessly towards the inevitable climax.”

“A poignant story about loyalty, disloyalty, solidarity, and puberty.”
De Limburger

“A truly gutsy novel.”

Summer Brother is a beautiful, modest novel. As he did with You Have Me to Love, Robben will once again win over a young generation of readers with this book. That in itself is praiseworthy.”

“Jaap Robben has once again written an overwhelming book.”
HMC Dagbladen

“His first novel, You Have Me to Love, was well-received, won prizes, and became a sales success. Summer Brother is a worthy successor and has all the ingredients to follow the same path. Robben knows how to write simply and magnificently―I kept underlining beautiful sentences in the first chapters.”