Albert Alberts en Ephraïm Kishon

 De nederlandse schrijver en vertaler Albert Alberts werd op 23 augustus 1911 in Haarlem geboren. Alberts studeerde Indologie aan de Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht en promoveerde in 1939 tot doctor in de geschiedenis op het proefschrift ‘Baud en Thorbecke 1847-1851’. Alberts werkte vervolgens een aantal jaren in Nederlands-Indië Hij debuteerde in 1952 met de verhalenbundel De eilanden. Het jaar 1974 is voor Alberts het jaar geworden van de doorbraak naar grotere bekendheid. De aanleiding was het verschijnen van “De vergaderzaal”. Ruim twintig jaar eerder was Alberts aan het verhaal begonnen, en toen, in 1954, had hij er ook al een deel van in De Gids gepubliceerd. Van Oorschot had al een kaftontwerp klaar liggen. Maar Alberts was in het eind van het verhaal blijven steken.


Uit:De vergaderzaal


“ Kunt u niet wegblijven? vroeg de secretaresse.
Zou u denken? vroeg meneer Dalem. Zou u denken dat ik weg zou kunnen blijven?
Natuurlijk zei de secretaresse. Wie moet ik bellen?
Niemand, zei meneer Dalem. Vooral niemand bellen. Ik wil eten.
Gaat u in de stad eten? vroeg de secretaresse.
In de stad eten, zei meneer Dalem.
Of zal ik wat laten halen? vroeg de secretaresse.
Laten halen? vroeg meneer Dalem. Ja, dat is prachtig.
En dan kunt u altijd nog zien hoe u zich voelt, zei de secretaresse.
Ja, zei meneer Dalem, hoe ik mij voel.
Of misschien alleen maar brood.
Brood, zei meneer Dalem.
Ik zal het hier laten brengen, zei de secretaresse.
Ja hier, zei meneer Dalem. Vooral hier. Niet buiten.”


Albert Alberts (23 augustus 1911 – 16 december 1995)


De Hongaars/Israëlische schrijver Ephraïm Kishon werd op 23 augustus 1924 in Boedapest geboren als Farenc Hoffman. Hij groeide op in een joods bankiersmilieu. Kishon overleefde het concentratiekamp en emigreerde in 1949 naar Israël. Onder het pseudoniem Chad Gadja schreef Kishon dertig jaar lang een dagelijkse column in de Israëlische krant Ma’ariv. Hoewel Kishon vele belangrijke Israëlische onderscheidingen kreeg, voelde hij zich toch buitengesloten door de elite. In 1981 vestigde hij zich daarom in Zwitserland. Kishon schreef satirische romans, toneelstukken en filmscripts. Zijn vijftig boeken werden vertaald in ongeveer veertig talen. Twee maal werden zijn films voor een Oscar genomineerd. Drie keer kreeg hij een Golden Globe. Tot de belangrijkste in het Nederlands vertaalde werken behoren onder meer “Bedriegen is ook een kunst”,De wereld een circus“, “Kijk maar om, mevrouw Lot” en “Ark van Noach”. Ephraïm Kishon overleed op 29 januari 2005 op 80-jarige leeftijd aan een hartaanval in Appenzell in Zwitserland.


Jewish Poker


Far quite a while the two of us sat at our table, wordlessly stirring our coffee. Ervinke was bared. “All right,” he said. “Let’s play poker.”

  “No,” I answered. “I hate cards. I always lose.”

  “Who’s talking about cards?” thus Ervinke. “I was thinking of Jewish poker.”

He then briefly explained the rules of the game. Jewish poker is played without cards, in your head, as befits the People of the Book.

    “You think of a number, I also think of a num­ber,” Ervinke said. “Whoever thinks of a higher num­ber wins. This sounds    easy, but it has a hundred pit­falls. Nu!”

    “All right,” I agreed. “Let’s try.”

We plunked down five piasters each, and. Leaning back in our chairs began to think of numbers. After a while Ervinke signaled that he had one. I said I was

   “All right,” thus Ervinke. “Let’s hear your number.”

   “Eleven,” I said.

   “Twelve,” Ervinke said, and took the money. I could have’ kicked myself, because originally I had thought of Fourteen, and    only at the last moment had I climbed down to Eleven, I really don’t know why.

   “Listen.” I turned to Ervinke. “What would have happened had I said Fourteen?”

   “What a question! I’d have lost. Now, that is just the charm of poker: you never know how things will turn out. But if your  nerves cannot stand a little gam­bling, perhaps we had better call it off.”

Without saying another word, I put down ten piasters on the table. Ervinke did likewise. I pondered my number carefully and opened with Eighteen.

   “Damn!” Ervinke said. “I have only Seventeen!” I swept the money into my pocket and quietly guf­fawed. Ervinke had certainly not dreamed that I would master the tricks of Jewish poker so quickly. He had probably counted on my opening with Fifteen or Six­teen, but certainly not with Eighteen. Ervinke, his brow in angry furrows, proposed the double the stakes.

   “As you like,” I sneered, and could hardly keep back my jubilant laughter. In the meantime a fantastic number had occurred to me: Thirty-five!

   “Lead!” said Ervinke. “Thirty-five!”


With that he pocketed the forty piasters. I could feel the blood rushing into my brain.

   “Listen,” I hissed. “Then why didn’t you say Forty-three the last time?”

   “Because I had thought of Seventeen!” Ervinke re­torted indignantly. “Don’t you see, that is the fun in poker: you never know what will happen next.”

   “A pound,” I remarked dryly, and, my lips curled in scorn, I threw a note on the table. Ervinke extracted a similar note from his pocket and with maddening slowness placed it next to mine. The tension was un­bearable. I opened with Fifty-four.

   “Oh, damn it!” Ervinke fumed. “I also thought of Fifty-four! Draw! Another game!”

My brain worked with lightning speed. “Now you think I’ll again call Eleven, my boy,” I reasoned. “But you’ll get the surprise of your life.” I chose the sure-fire Sixty-nine.

   “You know what, Ervinke”- I turned to Ervinke – “you lead.”

   “As you like,” he agreed. “It’s all the same with me. Seventy!”

Everything went black before my eyes. I had not felt such panic since the siege of Jerusalem.

   “Nu?” Ervinke urged. “What number did you think of?”

   “What do you know?” I whispered with downcast eyes.” I have forgotten.”

   “You liar!” Ervinke flared up. “I know you didn’t forget, but simply thought of a smaller number and now don’t want to own up. An old trick. Shame on you!”

I almost slapped his loathsome face for this evil slander, but with some difficulty overcame the
urge. With blazing eyes I upped the stakes by another pound and thought of a murderous number: Ninety-six!

   “Lead, stinker,” I threw at Ervinke, whereupon he leaned across the table and hissed into my face: “Sixteen hundred and eighty-three!”

A queer weakness gripped me.

   “Eighteen hundred,” I mumbled wearily. “Double!” Ervinke shouted, and pocketed the four pounds.

   “What do you mean, ‘double’?” I snorted. “What’s that?”

   “If you lose your temper in poker, you’ll lose your shirt!” Ervinke lectured me. “Any child will understand that my number doubled is higher than yours, so it’s clear that. . .”

   “Enough,” I gasped, and threw down a fiver. “Two thousand,” I led.

   “Two thousand four hundred and seventeen,” thus Ervinke.

   “Double!” I sneered, and grabbed the stakes, but Ervinke caught my hand.

   “Redouble!” he whispered, and pocketed the ten­ner. I felt I was going out of my mind.

   “Listen” – I gritted my teeth – “if that’s how things stand, I could also have said ‘redouble’ in the last game, couldn’t I?”

   “Of course,” Ervinke agreed. “To tell you the truth, I was rather surprised that you didn’t. But this is poker, yahabibi,3 you either know how to play it or you don’t! If you are scatterbrained, better stick to cro­quet.”

The stakes were ten pounds. “Lead!” I screamed. Ervinke leaned back in his chair, and in a disquietingly calm voice announced his number: Four.

   “Ten million!” I blared triumphantly. But without the slightest sign of excitement, Ervinke said: “Ultimo!”

And took the twenty pounds.

I then broke into sobs. Ervinke stroked my hair and told me that according to Hoyle, whoever is first out with the ultimo wins, regardless of numbers. That is the fun in poker: you have to make split-second de­cisions.

   “Twenty pounds,” I whimpered, and placed my last notes in the hands of fate. Ervinke also placed his money. My face was bathed in cold sweat. Ervinke went on calmly blowing smoke rings, only his eyes had narrowed.

   “Who leads?”

   “You,” I answered, and he fell into my trap like the sucker he was.

   “So I lead,” Ervinke said. “Ultimo”, and he stretched out his hand for the treasure.

   “Just a moment” – I stopped him – “Ben-Gurion!”

With that I pocketed the Mint’s six-month output.

   “Ben-Gurion is even stronger than ultimo,” I explained. . “But it’s getting dark outside. Perhaps we had better break it off.”

We paid the waiter and left.

Ervinke asked
for his money back, saying that I had invented the Ben-Gurion on the spur of the mo­ment. I admitted this, but said that the fun in poker was just in the rule that you never returned the money you had won.


Ephraïm Kishon (23 augustus 1924 – 29 januari 2005)