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Loneliness and friendship, loyalty and betrayal in times of migration and radicalisation


Tom Lanoye

Gideon Rottier is a loner with a speech impediment and an unusual job. He works for Extreme Cleansing, a cleaning company that takes up where others leave off: fires and floods are their speciality, along with suicides and years of neglect. And whenever they get the chance, Gideon and his colleagues make off with stuff that’s not theirs as well.

Lanoye leaves no stone unturned in a ruthless novel. ****1/2
De Morgen

Gideon’s life takes a different turn when Youssef, a refugee, becomes his new colleague. After an awkward start, they become best friends, partly thanks to a shared love of literature. Youssef even moves into Gideon’s townhouse, which is full of pilfered things. When Youssef saves Gideon’s life after an explosion, the latter promises to take care of his friend’s family in a world that seems to be getting more hostile and violent by the day.

After two suicide bombers detonate their explosive belts at Central Station, Youssef packs his rucksack and disappears, leaving his Flemish host to look after his wife and children, who radicalise in response to the shock.

Lanoye beautifully portrays the extreme moral dilemmas of our age and the human drama of friendship. ****
De Standaard

Boasting virtuoso language and characters who both love and resist one another, ‘Cleansing’ is set against the backdrop of a ‘broken and disintegrating continent’. It is a wonderful picaresque novel as well as a terrifying dystopia. A brutal and intense book for brutal and intense times.