Freetown by Otto De Kat

Freetown by Otto De Kat

Dutch fiction

Original title – Freetown

Translator – Laura Watkinson

Source – review copy

Well here is the first bi-weekly review post from me and I have chosen a Dutch Novel From the Dutch writer Otto De Kat which is the pen name of the Dutch Publisher Jan Geurt Gaarlandt a publisher of Non-fiction and someone I would love to chat with as he has published a ten-volume on world Literature now that is one book that could do with being translated into English!  I read one of his earlier books Man on the Move a few years ago and have also read a couple of others that I was sent. I decided it was time to feature him again on the blog.

Sierra Leone, yes, that was where Ishael came from. I asked him where he’d lived befpre, hoping he would say something, and to was away the thought of my rash offer.

“He held his right hand to protect himselfand keep the dog in her place. I noticed the pale palm of of his hand with its dark edges.It was a momnet before he said:”Sierra Leone”>I tried to remember exactly whereit was, that country I’d never met anyone from Sierra Leone.It was only a place on the mao for me, somewhere involving Diamonds and civil war. But that wasa long time ago, and it didn’t make the headlines anymore

The offer to live with her and her trying to think where he was from

This book follows a couple that had split up in their sixties. Maria is one of those women that has made it through the world herself. She is in her sixties but she has taken in a young boy Ishmael he is a refugee from Sierra Leone he delivered her papers and they struck up a friendship that leads to him living with Maria this goes well they get on and over time the older woman looks on this guy like her son. SO when she wakes one day not long after he has become a Dutch citizen. So she turns to her old lover Vincent a man who loved her but it just wasn’t ever right but as they start to discuss their own past but also what has happened to Ishmael, this will take Maria back to the heart of where he came from and confront the ghost of and the loss of a boy.

I visited his village, Vince, I havent been back from Sierra Leone that long. For three wees, I was in Ishmael’s homeland instead of where I said I was. I’d told Maarten I really wanted to make a trip to france on my own. That was fine by him, he was busy with his own life.

“Three weeks- it seemed – like an ocean of time.But it tricjkled away into the Landscape, into the river, into the villages, int the endless people. I’ve been back two months now, but sometimes I wonder if I was ever there at all.

“My first time in Africa, I don’t think you’ve been there, have you? I remember you saying you’re a European through and through, You thought rome was far enough, you didn’t need to go any further than that, did you ? And maybe you’re right. A white person in Africa, it’s not right. I was suddenly very aware of my colour.”

Her view of being a white women in Africa as she hunts for Ishmael.

The book isn’t what it seems the story has a refugee but this isn’t a refugee story it is a story of the two old lovers and what happens about human nature when Maria reconnects with Vincent how we see has never really got over the split between the two of them. The past that looms large as they talk over their memories about what they have been through but there is also the present looming large especially in Maria’s mind and discovering where Ishmael disappeared to what was his story. I feel this is what Otto De Kat does well in his books is talk about the inner working of what makes us all human he peels the onion skins back of the past of Maria and Vincent as we see what lead them to the point they are at now. This is often as the two characters recall monologues about their relationship But then when we see the part of the book where they discuss Africa it shows how People from European view Africa in a certain way. It is what I expect from Dutch literatur4e something that has real soul and a subtle view of the world a sort of Quiet loud that remains with me as a reader if that makes sense.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Lisa Hill
    Oct 22, 2020 @ 11:40:53

    A “quiet loud” – I do know what you mean, and I like books that do this…

    Reply

  2. 1streading
    Oct 23, 2020 @ 14:20:02

    I read his last three books – a loose trilogy – which all focused on World War Two, and enjoyed them very much. I’m looking forward to reading this.

    Reply

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