Bitter Herbs author Marga Minco dies, aged 103

Marga Minco at an award ceremony. Photo: Rob Keeris ANP

Dutch author Marga Minco has died at the age of 103, her relatives have said.

Minco, who was Jewish, is most famous for her bestselling book Het Bittere Kruid  (Bitter Herbs, 1957)) in which she evokes the WWII years in 22 short stories. In 2018 Minco was awarded the Netherlands most prestigious literary prize PC Hooftprijs.

The author was in her early 20s when she escaped from being transported to a concentration camp by simply walking out of the house when “the men in raincoats” came to take the family away.

Her father asked her to get the coats and Minco kept running until she found herself “alone in a deserted city”. She spent the rest of the war in hiding and under an assumed name.

None of her immediate family made it back from the camps and the war was to remain the dominant theme in her writing. This made, her, making her, the PC Hooftprijs jury said, ‘the Dutch voice of European wartime literature’.

One of the reasons Minco wrote Bitter Herbs was that she wanted to “make her relatives live on”, she later said.

“Marga Minco was one of our great authors who wrote about the war and its effects in a particular and very intense way,” her publisher Mai Spijker of Prometheus told broadcaster NOS.

“Harry Mulisch once said that Marga Minco was our living Anne Frank. I think that is true to some extent except it does not do justice to her particular voice, which was very special.”

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