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Do we have to be part of a ‘We’?


Jeroen Olyslaegers

It’s the summer of 1976. Although Europe is sweltering in a tropical heatwave, everyone is migrating from north to south. Georges, a disgruntled cartoonist for a quality newspaper, retreats with his family and friends to a mountain on the Spanish Costa Brava. People plunge into the pool, flirt with each other, drink whisky and Coke and talk about freedom and self-determination in a country that itself has just experienced the death of a dictator. Georges feels constrained by the perceived obligation to be part of a community, of a ‘we’, by the common history it assumes and by the self-conscious victims who, together with him, form a circle of family and friends. Surely there must be an emergency exit somewhere?

When it comes to style, theme and narrative power, Olyslaegers proves to be a worthy bastard son of the great Hugo Claus.

‘We’ is a saga of the demons we share, sex, family, alcohol, black money and – here and there – a shady past. It is a story about friendship that has nothing to do with friends, and ultimately one of defeat. Fast-paced and perceptive, ‘We’ is a many-layered book written in a natural, poetic language. It is a portrait of a man who is horrified by the pressure exerted by his environment as well as an incisive portrait of both the 1970s and today. Along with Winnings and WILL, ‘We’ forms a triptych on the troubled times we live in.

Ambitious, intelligent and driven
An incisive portrait of the Zeitgeist
Het Nieuwsblad