The history of a multinational corporation in a thrilling novel about sex addiction and the abuse of power
In her debut as a novelist, Saskia Goldschmidt has chosen the story of two brothers and a scientist who set up a pharmaceutical factory in the years running up to the Second World War. the author transforms this story into a tragedy of biblical proportions, with the hormones flying all over the place.
Main character- and unreliable narrator is the 97-year-old Mordechai (Motke) de Paauw, a former conman and womanizer who is looking back on his life from his deathbed. ‘A coach and horses could drive through the gaps in my conscience’ he says at the beginning, while his twin brother Aron’s high moral stance led him ‘right into the abyss’.
Next comes a picaresque account of the rise of the factory in the southern part of the country. We learn how Motke and Aron, with the help of a vain scientist, isolated hormon preparations from offal. How the brothers were driven apart by Motke’s haggling, his loose morals and, finally, a scurrilous plan. How the company survived the war while Aron died in a concentration camp. And how Motke picked up his carefree life again after the war- but is now heading for a resentful and unhappy death.
Told in a fast pace, packed with colour-ful vignettes of daily life in the twentieth century, The Hormone Factory offers a fascinating insight into the ruthlessness of businessmen or, as Motke says himself: the men who know what it means to sacrifice their own lives and those of their loved ones for a large business.
Motke is neither subtle nor sympathetic, but his candid voice and his unhypocritical approach to life make him a character you won’t soon forget. This is clear from the first page, when he says: ‘Yes, I have left my mark. But whether that helped the world? In avoiding the resin, we stumble into a ditch. We do nothing more, none of us.’
Jean Mattern from Gallimard, Paris, France:
I was impressed by the way Saskia Goldschmidt tells us this almost unbelievable story. It takes place in troubled times, and as such, the destiny of a Jewish family business in the Netherlands threatened by Nazi-Germany would already have been a great story line, but the author manages to weave questions about science, jealousy between brothers and sex into the narrative in such a way that the book becomes a real page-turner. The rare combination of a great plot and fascinating underlying interrogations, told in a very clear and gripping voice..
De Volkskrant: …A story written with color and momentum…
Brabants Dagblad: …Money, power, hormones, science, love, abuse, and betrayal are the threads with which the book is woven. A story in which testosterone and estrogen grab the characters by the throat. The novel about the proud tyrant De Pauw, that is based on imagination, but probably contains a lot more truth than we would like.
Literair Nederland: Goldschmidt’s tone is fascinating, picturesque and humorous. The fantastic formulated passage about the existence of God is hilarious. She has written an enthralling story in which she seduces the reader with beautiful sentences.
De leesfabriek: A strong book. Goldschmidt has a fine style of writing and knows how to build a good story. She also knows how to create good and credible characters. A true recommendation.
A gripping story in which the birth of moeder medical science, the post-war explosion of wealth and the bargaining that goes on between science and commerce are brought together. – 8Weekly
Download a sample of the translation in English (PDF)
Download a sample of the translation in German (PDF)
De Hormoonfabriek was Longlisted for the Libris Literature Prize 2013 and nominated for the Euregioprijs 2016.
The Hormone Factory is published as: Die Glücksfabrik in Germany (DTV, aug. 2014) in july 2014, The Hormone Factory in the USA (The Other Press, nov. 2014), Die Hormoonfabriek in South Africa (Protea Boekhuis, dec. 2014), La Fabrique des Hormones in France (Gallimard, juin 2015)
A podcast of The Hormone Factory has been released in Atumn 2014 by AVRO/TROS, directed by Peter te Nuyl (scenario by Saskia Goldschmidt and Peter te Nuyl)
Filmrights under option
The Hormone Factory was chosen for the Spring selection of Ten Books from Holland by the Dutch Foundation for Literature. Click here to read the article.