Hans Koning: ‘a cosmopolite with a wry, realistic attitude toward life’ according to the New York Times Book Review. He lived in four European capitals, as well as Mexico and Indonesia which gives his writing a vivid sense of place.
He moved to the United States in 1951 and divided his time between there and the UK for the rest of his life. This meant the Vietnam War overshadowed his writing from 1965-75. He campaigned actively in the anti-war movement and described those times as ‘bitter and frustrating years’ but he did feel that some good came out of their campaigning.
This was the second major war in Hans Koning’s life. He was a boy in Amsterdam when the Second World War broke out, and as soon as he could, joined the resistance, and was awarded the Dutch Resistance Cross. He managed to escape to England and joined the British army. He became one of its youngest Sergeants, and worked as a military interpreter.
After the war Hans Koning went back to Amsterdam, and his writing career began at a Dutch weekly magazine, where he was the editor until 1950. Following this he was invited to Indonesia to work in radio broadcasting, as the director of a culture show.
It was after his move to America in 1951 that he began writing novels. His first one was The Affair, published by Knopf in 1958. Over the next 40 years he wrote around 30 books, plays and translations, and adapted some of his novels for cinema.
It was his work as a reporter for the New Yorker that took Hans Koning to the most exotic places. He visited Cuba and Mexico, and was the first American-based writer to visit China under Mao. These experiences gave his writing its political background, and its cosmopolitan feel.