Afterzen Experiences of a Zen Student Out on His Ear

Janwillem van de Wetering

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

208 Pages


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Janwillem van de Wetering is an extraordinary writer, as readers familiar with his works know, whether he is writing as a student of Zen or recounting the adventures of the distinctively different Amsterdam cops who poulate his mystery novels. In Afterzen, third book of a beloved trilogy that began with The Empty Mirror and A Glimpse of Nothingness, van de Wetering provides unorthodox solutions to a collection of classical koans found in Walter Nowick's The Wisteria Tangle. Van de Wetering gives them his own distinctive touch of humor, down-to-earth reality, and tough spirituality in the context of meetings and adventures with personalities "collaged from bits and pieces of teachers and fellow students who kindly came my way." However, the dream or actual presence of his first teacher, Roshi, "a sage illuminated by humorous equanimity," is "as true to life as my malfunctioning keyboard dares to describe."

As one interviewer put it, van de Wetering "lost his childhood when World War II began." Most of the students in young Janwillem's private school in Rotterdam, where his father was a wealthy businessman, were Jewish and died in Treblinka. It was this and other harrowing wartime experiences that led to the author's seeking answers in directions as varied as joining a motorcycle gang and studying philosophy, and that would finally take him to Zen centers in several parts of the world. In this third book of his trilogy, van de Wetering is a his accessible, honest, and genuinely spiritual best.


Praise for Afterzen

"Nearly 30 years ago, van de Wetering, who would later achieve fame as a mystery novelist, published The Empty Mirror, about his experiences at a Zen monastery in Japan in the mid-60s. In 1975, he published a sequel, A Glimpse of Nothingness, about his stint at the Moon Springs Hermitage in Maine. Now the author has written a follow-up, Afterzen, told from the perspective of an aging soul who dropped most formal Zen practice years ago but still carries an abiding respect for the gut truths of the teaching and for at least some of its teachers. Much of the book has the air of the classic Zen saying, 'If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him': with humor and occasional crankiness, van de Wetering knocks koans, meditation, and some of the trappings of the monastic Zen life. There are many flashbacks, to Japan, to his American experiences, to meetings with fellow ex-students, and the book has a somewhat chaotic feel, rather more like life than art. Throughout, van de Wetering's voice is sincere, if iconoclastic . . . Those looking for an honest memoir by a perhaps wise man will find this to their taste."—Publishers Weekly

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Janwillem van de Wetering lives with his wife on the rocky coast of Northern Maine where he writes, paints, and composes typically unusual sculptures.
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  • Janwillem van de Wetering

  • Janwillem van de Wetering lives with his wife on the rocky coast of Northern Maine where he writes, paints, and composes sculptures.