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Adriaan van Dis

Cli-Fi: Fury in the Dutch Republic

A tragicomic, bitter cheerful parable about climate change, refugees and populism

With its typographic experimentation, Adriaan van Dis’ explosive new novel is surprisingly different from his previous work. It’s not a book about his Indonesian family nor a travelogue, but a searing, sometimes grotesque dystopian novel about the Netherlands today.

The story opens in 2030. The Dutch royal family has been overthrown, and the country is ruled by a populist president and his brutal junta, the Patriotic Guard. A hurricane sweeps across the country bringing widespread flooding, and amid scenes of panic and chaos, people flee their homes in search of safety. Meanwhile the media, under government control, doesn’t even mention the catastrophe.

A motley crew of climate refugees wash up on Uncle Kees’ farm in The Hollow, a village on the river floodplain. One of them, 84-year-old Jákob Hemmelbahn, retired librarian and son of Hungarian refugees, is reminded of the political situation he fled from before, and he begins recording the bizarre life stories of his fellow refugees, starting with his girlfriend Talétha, and Kano, who talks in rhyme.

Van Dis gives each character a distinct voice. Sometimes he uses short sentences and first-person narrative. At other times the prose is richly descriptive, sparse, shouty or aphoristic – but it bristles with urgency throughout.

That urgency is the point of the novel. Through his furious narrator, Van Dis shows what awaits us unless we take action: our freedom has already been restricted by the coronavirus crisis, right-wing climate deniers have become increasingly vocal, and if they manage to seize power we’re in for a world of trouble. And then there’s self-censorship, exemplified in the novel by Puma, who constantly looks over the narrator’s shoulder. In the era of cancel culture, everyone fears to speak their mind.

In The Great Derangement (2016), Amitav Ghosh asked his fellow writers to use fiction as a way of opening readers’ eyes to the danger of climate change. With his new novel, Adriaan van Dis more than rises to the occasion.

Van Dis offers a playful and provocative critique of the present moment. His prose is witty and sharp; the world he builds around Jákob Hemmelbahn is viscerally described, rich in associations and literary references. Van Dis is a sharp observer of our zeitgeist.

De Telegraaf

As we read this novel and become aware of the author’s impotent anger, we feel a mounting sense of despair.

NRC Handelsblad

Adriaan van Dis

Adriaan van Dis (b. 1946) was raised in the Dutch town of Bergen along with his half-sisters, the children of parents with an Indonesian background, traumatised by war. He debuted in 1983 with the novella Nathan Sid. After making a name for himself as a travel writer with books such as Het beloofde

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Details

KliFi: Woede in de republiek Nederland (2021). Fiction, 208 pages.
Words: 33,772

Themes: climate

Publisher

Atlas Contact

Prinsengracht 911-915
NL - 1017 KD Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 524 98 00
Fax: +31 20 627 68 51

E-mail:
hdeinum@atlascontact.nl
Website:
http://www.atlascontact.nl

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