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A fly-on-the-wall account of life on Urk

The Mystery of Urk

Matthias M.R. Declercq

Dissatisfied with an article about a murder on Urk he wrote as a burgeoning journalist, Matthias M.R. Declercq returns in a renewed effort to get to grips with one of the most peculiar villages in the Netherlands.

Urk is generally portrayed as a closed village community with people who are dour, distrusting and difficult to fathom. A former island, reclaimed from the sea and now part of the province of Flevoland, the town remains an island in the minds of its people – which is why we say on Urk, not in Urk. Fishermen. Everybody knows everybody else. You’re born on Urk, you marry an Urker and you’ll be buried in Urk soil. Rigid and taciturn. Sullen. Suspicious. Deeply religious.

The Mystery of Urk reads like a no-holds-barred portrait, which gives the place a proper airing.
De Volkskrant

For six months, Declercq lives in the most closed and orthodox fishing village in the Dutch Bible Belt, where he talks to the locals, prays with them, drinks with them, and even goes out fishing with them for a week. Little by little, the trust between them grows and a different reality comes to the fore. Declercq sees an affable and God-fearing group of people, while also becoming increasingly aware of a more shadowy world of youthful rebellion, despair, seafood fraud, xenophobia, incest, inbreeding and drug trafficking. Nothing is what it seems.

Matthias Declercq has written a fascinating book about the many facets of this unusual and closed religious community.
Declercq writes with great empathy.
Het Nieuwsblad
Interview with Matthias M.R. Declerq on 'The Mystery of Urk'