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Poetic fable about borders


Joke van Leeuwen

‘Here’ is set in a village in a forsaken mining region near the border of an unnamed country. Patriarch and his dog guard the lonely border against locals smuggling luxury goods from the wealthy neighbouring country. Patriarch won’t make friends with anyone in the village, because then they might expect him to turn a blind eye to their illegal activities. After all, rules are rules. His son Bardo, who lost his mother as a boy, grows up in this isolated world, falls in love with Mara, and together they have a daughter called Little One.

The townspeople are only welcome in the neighbouring country as a source of cheap labour. Until one day the Head of State seals the borders. No one is allowed to leave; resources become increasingly scarce. Bardo follows in his father’s footsteps to become a military border guard and learns that protecting his country is of paramount importance, no matter the cost. He gradually becomes estranged from his wife and daughter.

A new highpoint in her oeuvre *****
NRC Handelsblad

‘Here’ contains the elements that makes all of Joke van Leeuwen’s work so powerful. In her poetic prose, with its ostensibly simple sentences, she evokes a mythical world we see mirrored in contemporary issues such as xenophobia, migration and totalitarianism. She asks what it means to be an outsider. What is freedom and what are we prepared to do in return for it? Above all: where do we find freedom? There, across the border, or here, in our head?

'Here' inspires us to think about the essence of freedom.
A subtle novel, stripped of all context. ****
De Volkskrant