A deeply moving exploration of grief, told in brief, precise vignettes and full of gentle melancholy and surprising humour. Translated from Dutch by Sarah Timmer Harvey.

What if one half of a pair of twins no longer wants to live? What if the other can’t live without them? This question lies at the heart of Jente Posthuma’s deceptively simple What I’d Rather Not Think About. The narrator is a twin whose brother has recently taken his own life. She looks back on their childhood, and tells of their adult lives: how her brother tried to find happiness, but lost himself in various men and the Bhagwan movement, though never completely. 

What I’d Rather Not Think About was shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2024, announced on April 9 2024.

Shortlisted
The International Booker Prize 2024
Published by
Scribe UK
Publication date

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Portrait of author Jente Posthuma

Jente Posthuma

About the Author

Jente Posthuma’s critically acclaimed first novel, Mensen zonder uitstraling (People Without Charisma), was published in 2016 and nominated for the Dioraphte Literatour Prize, the Hebban Debut Prize and the ANV Debut Prize. 

More about Jente Posthuma
Portrait of translator Sarah Timmer Harvey

Sarah Timmer Harvey

About the Author

Sarah Timmer Harvey is a translator and writer currently based in Woodstock, New York.
More about Sarah Timmer Harvey

What the International Booker Prize 2024 judges said

‘A deeply moving exploration of grief and identity through the lives of twins, one of whom dies by suicide. Posthuma delves into the surviving twin’s efforts to understand and come to terms with the loss of her brother, examining the profound complexities of familial bonds. Posthuma navigates delicate themes with sensitivity and formal inventiveness, portraying the nuances of the twins’ relationship and the individual struggles they face. The author skilfully inflects tragedy with unexpected humour and provides a multifaceted look at the search for meaning in the aftermath of suicide. What I’d Rather Not Think About stands out for its empathetic portrayal of love, loss, and resilience.’  

Group photo of the International Booker Prize 2024 Judges; Romesh Gunesekera, Natalie Diaz, William Kentridge, Eleanor Wachtel and Aaron Robertson.

What the critics said

The Telegraph 

‘What makes What I’d Rather Not Think About rise above the average mourning novel is its utter authenticity. Posthuma associates, philosophizes, links memories to everyday actions, draws on films and television series and tries to interpret in a laconic, light-footed and pointed way. “Less is more” with Jente Posthuma. And again, she seems to be saying: nothing is “whole” here, in the subhuman. Everything rumbles, frays, and creaks.’

Nederlands Letterenfonds / Dutch Foundation for Literature

‘Posthuma’s scenes are deceptively light and sometimes wryly absurd, full of dialogue that is all about what’s not being said. Two’s urge to keep her brother close is always pulsing beneath the surface. But her brother is ‘broken and can’t be fixed anymore.’ After his death, Two hides out in his apartment, reading and rereading his journals. The desire to understand him remains, but she doesn’t find the answers she’s looking for. Posthuma has written a novel about this predicament that is deeply moving, vulnerable and funny.’

Alison Huber, Readings.com.au

‘In some ways it is tricky to recommend this book widely because of its difficult subject matter: it revolves around the grief of a twin who is trying to work out how to move forward in her own life after her brother, a long-term sufferer of depression, takes his own. To paraphrase the title, familial suicide and depression are certainly two of the key things many people would rather not think (or indeed read) about, but I want to tell you that this book is gorgeous. It is expertly crafted, moving, and at times startlingly funny, as the narrator tries to navigate the enormity of her loss.’

The Sydney Morning Herald

‘This exquisitely vulnerable novel inverts the upbeat struggle between twins which tends to dominate fictional portrayals. The narrator, Two, had a twin brother, One, who has recently killed himself. […] It’s psychologically dark – Two succumbs to an eccentric compulsion and she researches everything she can about Mengele’s brutal “experiments” on twins at Auschwitz – with no false sense of “closure”, and reminded me of Thomas Bernhard’s unrelentingly bleak, absurd, existential short fiction (ultimately comic, but only just) on a similar theme.’

Rebecca Foster, Foreword

‘With no speech marks, the conversations blend into cogitation and memories. Two meets with a therapist to parse her conflicting emotions and contemplate the meaning of self-harm. Suicide stories pervade the text, with the twins trading trivia about Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf, September 11, 2001, and the Holocaust. A wry tone, however, tempers the bleakness. What I’d Rather Not Think About is a forthright novel in which mental health, sexual orientation, and suicide are subjects of frank, empathetic consideration.’