Then Mother came with a knife
A dislocating view of reality
Nicolien Mizee made her debut three years ago with the original novel Voor God en de Sociale Dienst (For God and the Welfare Department, 2000), in which Cilia, thirty plus, searches for the mainspring and point of her existence. She does this by sending rambling faxes to Sam, who taught her how to write scenarios. In these faxes, she dredges up her past and asks existential questions ironically and light-heartedly. Am I lesbian? Why can’t I work and why won’t I? What difference does motivation? Why should other people look after you? The divine Sam could reply but holds his peace, as befits a true God.
In her second novel, Then Mother came with a knife, Mizee settles her dislocating view of reality on a well-to-do, artistic family whose members are burdened by an excess of good taste. The painter and decorator Ida attempts to extricate herself from the yoke of her eccentric and sporadically deranged mother. At the same time, she is incapable of looking after herself and is tormented by obsessive thoughts. Her Uncle Melchior, a small businessman dealing in pianos and fighting bravely against degeneration and over-commercialisation, supports her in his own way. Mizee’s characters balance on the verge of madness, sensitive as they are to dirt, damp, and other forms of everyday unpleasantness.
Just as in her debut novel, Then Mother came with a knife radiates a cheerful, tightly suppressed despair. There must be a deeper meaning to everything, but then again, why? With her keen eye for the absurd, however, Mizee never gets too heavy. Ida does eventually share in the happiness that she surmised might exist among the despised petty bourgeoisie.