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Fear versus empathy

Antigone in Molenbeek

Stefan Hertmans

A young woman is not allowed to bury her brother, because he has been accused of treason. Personal conviction and grief clash head-on with rigid, worldly laws. With ‘Antigone in Molenbeek’ Stefan Hertmans has adapted Sophocles’ tragedy to our contemporary, multicultural society. Antigone is now known as Nouria, a brave young law student from the Brussels district of Molenbeek. Just as in the classic, she wants to pay her last respects to her deceased brother – in Hertmans’ version a suicide bomber – and bury his remains. But the authorities decide otherwise. Here the lawmaker is not a perfidious state, but district police officer Crénom, a representative of our fearful democratic society.

Hertmans’ text is a plea for empathy, one that contains an unambiguous warning: our fear can feed radicalisation. This is a relevant contemporary dilemma.
De Volkskrant

In a poetic monologue we see Nouria go to extremes to give her brother’s body a final resting place - and we see it end badly. With his up-do-date version of an age-old issue, Hertmans explores how fear can get in the way of humanity and empathy. Or how a lack of understanding can lead to self-destruction.

Antigone in Molenbeek is a clever, empathetic monologue that leaves us with pressing questions.
De Standaard
With Antigone in Molenbeek Hertmans champions the human dimension, as well as empathy.
NRC Handelsblad