A hedgehog with sarcastic spines and how wolves can save nature

A hedgehog with sarcastic spines and how wolves can save nature

1. Mauro Corona: Like a stone in the stream

Alpinist, artist and media personality Mauro Corona (1950) you could be a predecessor of Paolo Cognetti (The eight mountains), but Corona’s work has not previously been translated into Dutch. Like a stone in the stream is a good novel to get to know the writer. It is partly autobiographical, Corona said upon publication. He writes about his unhappy childhood without a mother and how he was scarred by the disaster that occurred in 1963 with the Vajont Dam in the Dolomites – Corona was 12 – in which the town of Longarone was wiped off the map by a tidal wave: 1,917 people disappeared under the mud. In the second part, two lives pass each other in time. That of a hermit in his mountain hut who mainly ‘talks’ to a doe and lets mummies dictate stories to him. At the same time we follow his wife, who is locked up in her house hundreds of kilometers away between ‘his’ wooden sculptures. Corona wrote an allegorical story about a man who chooses life in the mountains over his habitat in a village in the Dolomites. He bases this on the idea that there is an animal in everyone’s life that corresponds to him (or her). Where the man hears and sees his wife in the doe, the woman has a hedgehog in the garden: a loner, stiff, a nocturnal animal, unpredictable and ‘always ready to wound with spines of sarcasm’.

Mauro Corona: Like a stone in the stream. (Come sasso nella corrente) Translation Marieke van Laake. World Library, 224 pages. € 22.99

2. Charlotte McConaghy: Once upon a time there were wolves

The Canadian novelist Inti Flynn also prefers nature, but for a different reason; the biologist has come to Scotland to reintroduce the wolf to the Highlands. The surprising novel Once upon a time there were wolves from the Australian writer Charlotte McConaghy comes in handy in the nitrogen debate because, according to Flynn, the wolf is nature’s salvation. Only local residents need to be convinced before fourteen wolves are released into an area. Their return, they are told at an introductory evening, will change the landscape for the better, the soil will become healthier, there will be less flood water and carbon emissions will be limited. Wolves are also used to ‘eliminate’ deer populations, allow predators to return and keep fox populations in check, allowing badgers and beavers to thrive again. It is also notable that Flynn suffers from so-called ‘mirror-touch synesthesia’, which allows her to feel the pain of an animal in distress or an injured human. She then has to say loudly to herself: ‘Not your pain. Not your body.” Once upon a time there were wolves a well-written ecological novel when it comes to the return of the wolf to save nature, a detective when it comes to the death of a farmer (the population is already ready to shoot the entire pack) and a psychological novel about education and (sisterly) love. A bit much perhaps – if McConaghy had left it at the wolf, it would have been a strong story.

Charlotte McConaghy: Once upon a time there were wolves. (Once There Were Wolves) Translation Dennis Keesmaat. Prometheus, 334 pages. € 22.50

3. Lidewey van Noord: The Spanish rider

The novella written with cycling knowledge The Spanish rider by Lidewey van Noord depicts a Vuelta that, just like this summer, starts in the Netherlands. Spain’s hope, Miguel Correal, is being chased by Dutch champion Nils Vendelaar while leading in the closing stages of the opening stage. Would he still pass by now? And then in a few seconds it happened. Correal steers a few centimeters to the right, immediately corrects, but his great competitor has fallen and the chaos is complete. Of course, we immediately see images of cyclist Dylan Groenewegen who deviated from his track in the opening stage of the Tour of Poland in 2020, causing his compatriot Fabio Jakobsen to be catapulted into the crush barriers. Jakobsen was taken to hospital. Groenewegen was found guilty of causing the accident. The Spanish rider can already see the headlines in his mind. Because Nils Vendelaar is also taken to hospital. Correal escapes unnoticed and is later found unconscious somewhere on the roadside. Then follow days of hiding from the team leaders who urge him to come back and avoiding the media. Van Noord has clearly mapped out the conflict between professional pressure and humane response in sport.

Lidewey van Noord: The Spanish rider. Volt, 140 pages. € 10,-

4. Elly Campioni-Soeters: Camp head unwillingly

How many people from the ‘Japanese camps’ would have been advised after the war to write off their nightmares and dreams? One of those people was Elly Campioni-Soeters (1907-1985) who, indeed on doctor’s advice, decided to write off the wartime, but not with the intention of publishing her notes. She did write: ‘Let everyone who reads this keep in mind that fate has been extremely favorable to me. That I have always experienced help from all sides and that many hundreds experienced at least as much; and then under much more difficult circumstances’. Elly Campioni became camp leader of Japanese camp Grogol near Batavia (Jakarta) in July 1943, where she was in charge of more than eight hundred women and children. Those memoirs have been carefully edited by Toine de Graaf and Elsedien de Groot in consultation with Els Algie-Campioni, the daughter of Campioni-Soeters, who survived four camps together with her mother before returning to the Netherlands on a ‘troop transport ship’ in May 1946. Camp head unwillingly is an impressive eyewitness account of what happened in the Indies during the Japanese occupation.

Elly Campioni-Soeters: Camp head unwillingly. Indian war memories. Flamingo Management, 224 pages. € 22.25

5. Ton Damen: Cast away

Journalist and writer Ton Damen (1958) was adopted and never felt the need to look for his biological mother. Until his son did a DNA test and it turned out to be a match with a half-sister of Damen. Contact was made with this half-sister to investigate the actions of the biological mother together and he discovered that his mother, Anna Zandvliet, had tried to prevent the adoption, but under pressure from both her mother and her husband. Child Protection, ultimately agreed to the adoption. The current Cast away convincingly describes what it is like to be a ‘distanced child’ and how painful it is to find out that the biological mother did not want to part with him. The fact that his mother even made world news as a young girl because she came to the Netherlands as a stowaway with her brothers makes the story even more impressive. Damen alternates the search with an account of a trip he made with his Armenian wife to Georgia; She fled with her family to the Netherlands during the Armenian genocide, but still has many family members living in Georgia. He also experienced that family ties can be so close at the many family gatherings of his adoptive mother’s family – every reason to also find out more about his biological family. Good journalistic story, although there are repetitions that could have been avoided by tighter editing.

Ton Damen: Rejected. Looking for my biological mother. De Kring, 256 pages. € 19.99

6.Daniel Smith: A small world history in 50 books

‘I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library’ wrote Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986). The American writer and journalist Daniel Smith quotes the Argentine poet A small world history in 50 books with which he gives a preview of what should be in that library. Each work he chooses is placed in a historical context. From old works such as The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Iliad from Homer, via sacred and philosophical works (Confucius and Plato) to scientific works to arrive at the complete works of Shakespeare, Goethe’s Faust and War and peace of Tolstoy. There is also a respectful discussion of it The diary of a young girl of Anne Frank whom Smith calls the ‘symbol of hope’. Smith agrees that the choice is selective in advance and he proposes turning it into a literary game as to which books do or do not fit. In any case, this is already a nice overview of what can be found in Borges’ Paradise.

Daniel Smith: A Short History of the World in 50 Books. (A Short History of the World in 50 Books). Translation Eric Strijbos Spectrum, 332 pages. € 18.99

This is the last episode of the section for a while Also published in this shape.