(Het land waar ik u liefheb)
Set against the rise of right wing politics this first novel is a kind of love-story (not sexual) between an older scatty maths professor called Jean-Claude and his dead brother’s traumatised little daughter Bérénice whom he adopts, despite knowing nothing of children or women. He nurses her (and in the process himself) back to life. It’s moving, engaging, centres on universal themes and gives a hilarious portrait of Belgium.
With a host of vividly drawn and thoroughly engaging characters, amongst them: Mr Abdullah, Jean-Claude’s neighbour and friend of many years standing and his (too) many wives; the mysterious Elvira the only woman Jean-Claude has ever felt at ease with, whose ex was beautiful but politically terrifying, who now lives with disfigured, maimed Jefke; Jean Claude’s colleagues at the university; the misguided Harvard Martha who invades all their lives and the ever encroaching Sigrid Verdronken, Jean Claude’s neighbour on the other side whose shed looks more like a bunker and who seems to have evil plans for Jean Claude and little Bérénice. Tension builds as you fear more and more for these characters whose gifts for friendship and love make them unforgettable.
‘This is that rare thing – a novel so full of energy, so endlessly inventive, so completely distinctive, that every page holds surprises. Compare it to Benigni’s portrait of a traumatised world in La vita e bella, for here too is a world one should weep over. But then, like Benigni, Pas proves that laughter is the only real weapon in the fight against despair. It is the tragedy of clowns – ridiculous and undignified in form, yet never lacking pathos or genuine humanity. It is a book that enables both the foolish and the wise to learn forgiveness.’ Dr J D Ballam, University of Oxford, Director of the Diploma in Creative Writing
‘A compelling story, charmingly told. The Country Where I love You is a beautiful and wonderfully funny read.’ Paula B. Stanic, London playwright, winner of the 2008 Alfred Fagon Award
‘A marvellous first novel. Hilariously funny and deliciously dark yet heart-breakingly honest. If Brueghel had turned his hand to writing, this would have been it – a carnivalesque celebration of life, an enchanting troubadour’s tale of kings and rascals, wise fools and truthful cheats, where the comic and the tragic walk hand in hand.’ Prof Em. Michael Reynolds, professor in Psychology, Lancaster University, UK
- Uitgeverij Vrijdag Belgium and the Netherlands
Material: manuscript in English; Dutch edition (336pp).