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Fragments of a Journey

A Fistful of Life

Fragments by Jose de Koster, Blog 1

Fragments of a Journey

A fistful of life

Blog 1


Welcome to my blog.

My name is Liz and I am the wife of the late Jose de Koster, artist and writer,former resident of the beautiful Blue Mountains, west of Sydney in Australia. Following his death, his autobiography was published, a beautiful book featuring not just the story of his remarkable life but alsoa selection of his many poems as well as images of his artwork. Extracts from the book can be seen on the website shown above. Please take a visit and if you like what you see, tick the "like" box and/or leave a comment.

The purpose of this blog is to publish, not just the extracts but the text of the book in its entirety in instalments. happy reading.



“Write, son. Even if only one line a day, keep the flow going. Just as a river needs water otherwise it becomes a dry bed, so too does the brain need the stimulation of a word, a thought, a line, action. Energy and action.”

Thus spoke my mother, hoping I would become a journalist. As a boy, I would watch those hard-bitten journalists in B-grade American movies, Dan Durea cigarettes hanging out of the corners of their mouths, alternately witty and sardonic or jaded, cynical and melancholy. I did not want to be like that. I dreamed of quiet rooms and sitting at a big, polished mahogany desk waiting for the fires of inspiration to stir me into a feverish tapping of the typewriter key- board. She was right, of course – every day, just write something. So I have kept a diary for years, sometimes extremely prosaic, at other times a lovely flash of life.

One line a day, each new one reflecting life as it was and now is, in my skull, full of images and living dreams, some shattered, some floating on the Blue Danube of Strauss (now playing on the radio in the year 2005) each line following another.

My fingers pound the keys of the typewriter, each letter a fragment of a word of a tale that is love. Love, Life! The two words are one and the same.

To live is to love and it is love that nourishes life. My aged head is filled with the words of countless authors who have inspired me but four speak to my soul above all and it is to these four that I write my epistle. My story is to them and for them. The first is Pablo Neruda, my favourite poet of all time. For many years, I have talked to him and listened to his voice through my mouth as the poetry I read of his, fills my being with the true moment of recognition, the recognition of the echo of my soul. I hope his spirit is joined by the other three whose poetry has sustained me for years. The first is Marina Tsvetaeva, the tragic Russian poet who took her own life in order to halt the searing pain called Stalin. She is the female counterpart of my soul. The second is Osip Mandelstam who froze to death in the Gulags of the Siberian wastelands and the third is Anna Akhmatova who, like the others, was subjected to the torment of the nightmare that was Stalin. I wish to keep them all alive as long as I live.

I live in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. Today it is cold, the frost has died and turned into water – soggy earth underfoot. A landscape which I had set out beforehand in sketches and in the mind, is now becoming a painting, oils dripping off the brush and the mind, like a sentry on duty, allows no other movement than what it orders. I prefer to be in this slightly colder climate as the heat saps my energy and at seventy odd years of age, energy is to be preserved even more than before, when the lithe young body recklessly aban- doned caution. At the same time, I do not feel old. My mind has not caught up with my body and is full of the vitality and exuberance of youth, suddenly aware of its age only when I see the reflection of myself in a mirror or shop win- dow and am startled to see the old man that I am. Born in 1929 is, nowadays, a past so far removed that it feels like a fantasy or story to be told.

Sometimes, small extracts of the past arrive on the screen of memory and I see garden parties, my father playing tennis, soccer, flirting with the ladies, his giggles causing a heaving of fluttering hearts whilst my mother’s wise eyes hooded over, storing all she saw. As a child, small and fragile but temperamental as well, I would hang back in the shadows and watch. And always feel alone.

My mother, an indomitable woman of aristocratic bearing, one of six children, was born in Blitar, approximately 70 kilometres from Malang where I spent some of my youth, on the island of Java in what is now Indonesia but which at the time of her birth, was known as The Netherlands East Indies. Her father boasted an empire on the island of Java, establishing a series of plantations, growing rice and sugar; an empire he won and lost twice thanks to the volcano, Gunning Kelud, which wiped out his plantation. But he was a wild fighter. “No rotten mountain can get me on my knees,” he shouted, as he started afresh, aided by his brother and nephews brought over from the old country. He was adored and idolised by his wife and family and especially by my mother and my older brother, Ed, who resembled him in both features and temperament and was consequently favoured by him. He was not keen on me as, instead of the rosy cheeks, forthright eyes and fearless nature of my brother, I was dark of skin, quiet, and therefore moody in his opinion, and easily in- timidated. The feeling was mutual but did not worry me as I was adored and loved by his wife, my grandmother. In contrast to her husband, who was a huge man, towering over her, she was a tiny woman with the charm of a coquette, constantly smiling with her small, Asian eyes which she inherited from her half French, half Vietnamese mother. The family were all musically inclined – plantation life creating that necessity – and were adept with ukuleles, guitars, violins and piano. My mother showed great proficiency in piano and became a concert pianist performing throughout Europe.





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It is the anniversary of Guus de Koster on Monday 13th September. I came across this page while trying to find videos of him acting. I am one of his Great Granddaughters -Hope. I remember Jose coming over from the Blue Mountains to Auckland to visit my Papa. I have fond memories of Jose teaching me how to paint. Thank you for creating this space where we can come and remember them.
Please keep in touch or share any photos you have.
Take care!


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