A Lamb to Slaughter (Paperback)

An Artist Among the Battlefields

Jan Montyn, Dirk Ayelt Kooiman

A young Dutch boy joins the German navy for adventure on the cusp of World War Two, but finds himself in over his head.

At the age of eighteen Jan Montyn was learning how to cross a ravine hanging from a rope; at nineteen he was serving in the Baltic on a German minesweeper; by the time he was twenty he was enduring the mud, snow and slaughter of the trenches on the Eastern front; before he was twenty-one he had lived through the hell of the Allied bombing of Dresden, played cat-and-mouse with the Russian army in a last-ditch stand on the banks of the Oder, retreated across Germany into the arms of Allied forces, escaped from a POW camp and joined the Foreign Legion. A few years later he was at war again, in Korea.
An adventure story on the grandest scale? Rather one of horrific experience and of a sensitive mind driven to obliterate the terrors of the past by a further dose of the same medicine.
Coming from a childhood hidebound by the most rigid structures of Dutch Calvinism, the young Montyn had seen the German Occupation of Holland and the wider opportunities it offered as the dawn of a new freedom. He had joined the German navy in a spirit of bravado, only to find himself trapped in the final, agonising throes of Germany's defeat in the Second World War and to live through the worst that men and machines can inflict on each other.
As an artist it affected him deeply, leaving him prey to hidden terrors and nightmares. From being a devotee of war he became a confirmed pacifist.
Written in collaboration with one of Holland's leading young novelists, A Lamb to Slaughter is a deep and haunting book of exceptional skill, a catalogue of strife and bloodshed whose message is peace and hope. Through years of restless pain Jan Montyn has struggled to come to terms with his baptism of horror - through debauchery, madness and the catharsis of remembering, through his art and the healing balm of the Buddhist faith.
His story is that of a man haunted by battlefields, who now seeks them out, not as a participant but for the essential tranquility he finds amid the aftermath of war. His book is an unforgettable literary experience, a moving evocation of the human paradox that transcends its immediate theme to assail our deepest sensibilities.

Publication date:


ISBN: 9780285626218

Imprint: Souvenir Press

Subject: Biography & Memoir

Reviews for A Lamb to Slaughter

'Sometimes a suit of heer vileness turns out to have an unexpectedly moral lining, something which, I suspect, applies to this rather unusual book. It's always interesting to see how far people can take themselves and how they manage to bring themselves back. In Jan Montyn's case it was quite a journey.'

 Time Out

'He has had quite astonishing adventures in many lands... The description of the British bombing of Dresden, the bombs continuing to fall long after the city and its people have been obliterated, is harrowing.'

 Irish Times

Jan Montyn

Jan Montyn

Jan Montyn (13 November 1924 – 10 August 2015) was a Dutch artist who specialized in etching. He was best known for his paintings of wars to which he had been an eyewitness.
Montyn was born in a conservative Calvinistic family and was raised in Oudewater. In the Second World War he joined the German navy and fought on the eastern front. After the war he lived in France and in the Netherlands. His work is displayed in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam.
Montyn died on 10 August 2015 in Amsterdam, aged 90.

Dirk Ayelt Kooiman

Dirk Ayelt Kooiman

Dirk Ayelt Kooiman (1946-2018) was a Dutch prose writer and essayist. In his novels and stories, many of his main characters are doubting men with an insecure view of themselves and the realities of their circumstances.