He was born in Amsterdam.
Raised as a communist, he lost his 'faith' in his twenties and became an active critic and opponent of the Soviet regime. With his help, work of dissident Andrei Sakharov was smuggled to the west, and his Alexander Herzen Foundation published dissident Soviet literature.
He is considered to be one of the finest Dutch essayists, his interests ranging from the fallacies of Marxism to nude beach etiquette. His works include a history of Russian literature, 2 novels and several collections of essays.
His brother, Gerard Reve, is one of the great post-war prose writers.