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What history does to ordinary people


David Van Reybrouck

‘There sits Emil, an old man at forty-two, under a blanket, coughing. He’s had five nationalities, without even moving house.’ For more than a century, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany shared a neighbour, Neutral Moresnet, a completely forgotten mini-state that is now part of German-speaking Belgium but from 1816 to 1919 had its own flag, its own government, its own police force (one rural constable), its own postage stamp (valid for two weeks) and its own national anthem (in Esperanto, no less). It covered an area of 3.5 square kilometres, featuring zinc, distilleries, cabarets, brothels, smugglers, philanthropists and forests.

His trademark has become a personal, erudite and stirring form of history writing.
Vrij Nederland

In ‘Zinc’, his official ‘Dutch Book Week 2016’ essay, David Van Reybrouck tells the remarkable story of this forgotten country, based on the improbable fate of one of its citizens.

Van Reybrouck's essay comes to live by what he does not describe. His concise, poetic language illuminates this unknown territory.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung