Political &

For Posterity



email: anthonysteyning59 at gmail dot com



The Applicant now available on Kindle by Endeavour Press for only 2.99 Euro:


$ 22.00  incl. shipping

To order an autographed hard copy, email






An existential novel by


Anthony Steyning



This work was inspired by Camus' The Fall (La Chute), also set in Amsterdam. While never ceasing to entertain, both deal with issues surrounding contemplated suicide within the wider context of contemporary existence. However, The Applicant quickly takes a surprisingly different direction.

For one, it's not a self-flagellating, near monologue. It has a real plot and a classical triangle of principal characters. There is suspense and dramatic tension. The story is cosmopolitan and essentially universal. Albert, an international businessman and traveller of a certain age, wishes to be spared the infirmities of old age and commissions his own murder. Devi, sometimes called Fred, is his candidate executioner. She’s of mixed blood---- a half Asian, half local beauty, a diplomat’s daughter who has a lot of empathy with Albert’s plight. She admires his personal courage and subtlety, qualities which to a large degree she finds wanting in the local male population. Way too large. Casey is an eccentric and the exception, a riotous younger character and admirer of Albert, whom he sees as his mentor. They congregate at a small political Café in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district, filled with a rich blend of secondary characters. This short novel is replete with delightful, unorthodox insights and humour, while treating the core subject with dignity.

The end plot is a complete reversal of the situation as initially presented to the reader, and likely to bowl him/her over. A serious literary novel with the qualities of a thriller: a rarity these days.


This critique appeared in various English dailies when the work first appeared:

" We are very much reminded of Tabucchi’s Vanishing Point. There are similarities in prose style and there is a resemblance between The Applicant’s main character, Albert, and Tabucchi’s for the manner in which this personage is obsessively trapped in the gap between life and death.


The book also is somewhat reminiscent of some of Kundera’s work, for two reasons. Kundera’s early books rely much more pointedly than his later ones on comedy. Kundera’s comic touch has much in common with the kind of humour one comes across in this novel. Secondly, we find that the narrator’s tendency to comment on the wider themes thrown up by the book’s story, has many parallels with the role of Kundera’s narrators.


The subject matter and style of The Applicant place it in a very strong tradition of wider European literature which overlays an entertaining philosophical or political fancy on to a group of characters, whose lives then partly become an expression of that fancy. Greene, Kundera, Camus, Tabucchi, Klima, Kafka among others all wrote novels like this at a certain point in their careers.


The sense that Steyning is in control of his material remains very keen. The philosophical nuggets are woven deeply into the story and are never allowed to swamp the reader. We have a strong feeling that what he tried for and what he got, are pretty much the same thing. This is a fairly rare feat and it needs to be pointed out, well done. "





“Mon Dieu, she could be your daughter,” Mireille thought, then whispered admiringly, “I see what you mean...!” as a well-dressed woman unknown to her, hesitantly climbed the three steps into her café.

But then, following the lady with her eyes the Belgian bar girl’s smile instantly turned to ice. Mireille didn’t quite like the way this complete stranger threw a loaded glance of complicity at old Albert, her favourite regular, as she made it through the door. He sat near the entrance, at Table One, beside the heavy, open red curtain. It was this very glance, the woman’s almost threatening half-smile that turned Mireille off, even though minutes earlier Albert had told her he was ´waiting for killer’ or ‘killer’s coming tonight’ or something to that effect, so that she was forewarned. But it was a remark Mireille had chosen to ignore, a lot of things are said in bars that go neither here nor there, but now she saw that Albert hadn’t been exaggerating: this fine, female specimen is a 'killer' all right. What she had no idea of was how he had meant the ‘killer’ business quite so... literally, that this was no ordinary encounter, and the exotic-looking beauty no ordinary woman. Apprehensive, Mireille stepped back behind her small bar at Hegeraad, not knowing what to make of this surprise scenario.

Hegeraad is an Amsterdam bruin-café, an old-style watering-hole in the Jordaan district where Albert had arranged to meet his future executioner. Mireille’s quick disapproval of the woman stepping into her space basically one of instinctive protection. She’s fond of old Albert, he adds spice to her work, he’s a man free of the deep wounds that seem to linger in the psyche of most other, younger men here. Long ago she cured her own husband of these but this sweet, old duffer needs no healing. To her he’s a delight of studied relaxation and self-confidence. Mireille was puzzled as to the motives of the woman with the movie-star looks, having come to meet the old boy here, the age difference between them enormous. Surely a matter of money, she thought. But one doesn’t have to work in a Café in Amsterdam to become naturally suspicious, or world-wise, or whatever one wishes to call it. Just as surely as jumping to fast, erroneous conclusions is a national pastime here and a bug that has also bitten her, she readily admits. But look at Albert, look at him all the same, jumping up from his chair, attempting to hide his congenital stiffness, thinking somehow he’s still up to conquest or whatever it was that crossed his mind.

And Albert did momentarily forget that this was a different game, that the meeting with the tall, part Indonesian, part domestic beauty was set up to conquer his dread not of death, but of living uselessly. Nothing to do with other, dormant physical impulses, because had he been a bit younger there would indeed have been one other way in which to deal with intimations of mortality and living vacuously, his main preoccupations these days. The only other way to overcome these, as lovers say, between a pair of smooth, silk sheets, in bed. But this, for him, was probably far too late.

“Good evening.

“Good evening, I’m so pleased.....”

“ I’m sorry, I’ve been so immersed, I’ve been so taken with your story, the strange, the urgent proposition...”

“ That you forgot my name?”

“Yes. I’m sorry.”

“ That’s all right. I’ve been looking forward....”

“ meeting your would-be, exterminating angel?”

“ Yes, yes...”

“ So much, that you also forgot her name!?”

“ Yes. I’m so sorry. I’m Alb......!”

“ Don’t give me your name. And I won’t give you mine. If you’re really serious about this, it’s best to remain good acquaintances and rivals, not friends. Unusual place.” she said, looking round. And then abruptly,

“ Familiarity would make it all so...”

“ …would make it all so difficult? You’re absolutely right. But before you sit down, do look round, take in this spot. First impressions are vital, and unfailingly accurate. If we have a deal, then this is the place from where to start.... Drink?”

“ Yes. Thanks. White wine. Label doesn’t matter... I’m sure a small house like this has its limitations.“ She continued looking round attentively, then adding, “ Charming. Just like a living room. You couldn’t have suggested a better venue.”

“ Mireille, Madame will have a white wine. Your finest!”

“ Madame will have to take what I can offer. This is not the Ritz.” Mireille remaining viscerally defiant.

“ Of course, Mireille, of course. That’s why we’re here, because this is not the Ritz. Precisely what Madame was just saying!” Then back to his guest, “Mireille’s Belgian, the most refined inn-keeper in the city. Most here don’t know their Ritz from their elbow....”

They all smiled. Albert’s last remark had broken the ice, Mireille’s ice. She smiled differently this time, back to the good old Mireille smile. Albert had not known her to be so aggressive, but then this was the very first time he had met up here with a stranger, an outsider, a female, one so much younger and pretty at that. In fact, up until very recently he had been the stranger here, besides with Mireille almost exclusively talking with a couple of younger regulars, one a mathematician and amateur historian, his friend Casey, the other Floris, a documentary filmmaker, both heavy drinkers, but civilized, and intrigued by him. They weren’t here tonight, which given the occasion, suited him just fine.

For the ongoing story you won't be disappointed after ordering the book. In fact, you'll be enthralled.



>> Top of page