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Poetic fable about borders


Joke van Leeuwen

'Here' is a shabby village close to the border, in a former mining region. The border is guarded by Forefather and his dog, called Dog. Rules are rules, and Forefather doesn’t want to make friends with anyone in the village, because that would make his work harder. His son Bardo grows up in this closed universe. Bardo falls in love with Mara and together they have a daughter called Little One.

People from Here who travel abroad are welcome only as a source of cheap labour. Until one day the borders are shut and no one is allowed to leave the country. Resources become increasingly scarce. Bardo follows in his father’s footsteps to become a military border guard and learns that it is necessary to protect his country whatever the cost. The distance between him and his wife and daughter steadily grows.

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

‘Here’ contains everything that makes Joke van Leeuwen’s work so powerful. In her poetic prose, with its apparently simple sentences, she manages to evoke a mythical world that we can connect with contemporary themes such as xenophobia, migration and totalitarian regimes. She asks what it means to be human and an outsider. What is freedom and what are we prepared to do in return for it? Above all: where is this freedom to be found? There, on the other side of the border, or here, in our heads?

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