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Men are Mentally and Physically Limited

by Norbert Splint in Films & Books , 15 December 2018

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

Early November, the first collection of short stories by Norbert Splint was presented at the VOC Café de Schreierstoren in Amsterdam. We should fear the worst if we go by the title of the book “Dood kind” (Dead child). And indeed: children are born lifeless or barely make it to secondary school, after which they tend to be suicidal.

It is a collection of curiosities. This includes, among other things, ruined lawyers who have hit rock-bottom, overworked housewives, and neurotic teenagers who struggle with everything, especially with their homosexuality. They have in common that they all stand alone. None maintain warm, loving or even friendly relationships. Eventually, they are left behind, abandoned.

In “Dood kind,” almost everything goes wrong. Several women see their desire to have children fall to pieces in hospitals in Paris or Amsterdam. And if their children are born alive, then typical maternal ambitions, such as having grandchildren, are utterly shattered.

For example, because their son, gifted or not, turns out to be gay. What else is striking here? Vomiting occurs in almost every story, and the consumption of alcohol and drug use is high. Men are constantly being addressed as “Doctor.” Even though they are not.

With regards to men: the so-called blokes in this book are - to put it mildly - rather unfortunate beings. Instead of turning out to be a stand in for George Cloony or Daniel Craig, they turn into mentally and physically repressed souls during their - straight - marriage, while trying to camouflage their limited vocabulary with clichés or acts of violence. Or they are absent, causing their teenage boys to become clueless about how to deal with their changing bodies and brains.

Failed Gay Pride

“Dood kind” contains ten stories that take place in Amsterdam or the north of the province of North Holland. The story “Koffie” features a freelance writer who is having coffee in the Coffee Company on the Amstelstraat. There, he has a go at his drab parents. He puts his fingers on all the things that get on his nerve: his father is stuck in the 1950s in terms of music and other things. His mother is continuously busy with her housekeeping and continues to advise her stoic son not to talk about his homosexuality as “people gossip.”

All this against the backdrop of a botched Gay Pride. The protagonist puts the blame on the mayor, “...a grumpy elitist Jew without affinity with the Pride.” The man had let it be known that the cause of the fiasco lay in the lives of different population groups, something about which the main character couldn’t care less.

Ku-Klux-Klan Outfits

He is interested in other developments however: “...the flop was also due to the fact that the Pride was smaller than usual. Licenses were not granted, sponsors left, and, like all other years, several gay interest groups were fighting over futilities for months. A radical mosque called on people to disrupt the Pride festivities. At a press conference, the chief of police issued a warning. Not to the Muslim fundamentalists, but to the festival goers. The police couldn’t be everywhere. This turned out to be true: the Friday party on the Zeedijk was disturbed by bearded men in white Ku-Klux-Klan dresses, and the following day, two Dutch-Moroccans crashed their scooters into the crowds on Thorbeckeplein. The results: eighteen injured, zero arrests.”

In the stories of “Dood kind,” the reader is on the wrong track: various suicide methods are discussed in a detached fashion, as well as executed in an even more down-to-earth way. When you think it works out in the end, the opposite is true. The main characters deserve a hug, but physically or mentally they get knocked on the head.

Fortunately, “Dood kind” is an easy read. The stories are timeless and, apart from some Internet connections, could take place in 2017 or 1947. Being alone is universal and of all times.

  Norbert Splint, Dood kind, Den Haag: Uitgeverij U2pi, 2018, 182 blz., ISBN 9789087598082, € 17,50 (in Dutch)



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