A powerful novel with a social conscience
Mr Mulder seems to all appearances to be a upstanding gentleman, gliding through life, impeccably dressed, aloof to the hustle and bustle of the world around him. Because of a sizeable inheritance he can afford to idle away his time, and so he leaves Holland for Paris, where he leads an anonymous, solitary existence. One night he witnesses a dramatic fire in a building occupied by illegal immigrants and transients. People throw themselves out of windows in blind panic, as the crowd below looks on helplessly.
From that day on Mulder finds himself with a new pet: a dog which survived the fire has adopted him. Mulder tries to shake him off, but the dog follows him everywhere. The dog seems to mirror the suppressed, instinctive side of Mulder’s personality: everything the man shies away from, the dog seeks out. The animal also has an infallible memory for the people he knew before, and he opens up a new world for Mulder.
In searching for the cause of the fire, Mulder encounters a motley group of characters, like the whisky-soaked priest Bruno, a onelegged beggar woman and a taciturn Chinese who is never without his pull-cart. Mulder also starts to develop warm feelings for Sri, a mysterious woman he wants to save from the life of an illegal immigrant with a fake passport. But she is less than thrilled by his offers of help. ‘I want to live my life without feeling guilty,’ she says. ‘Me too,’ he replies. ‘That’s why I want to help you.’ But all Mulder’s attempts to do the right thing come to naught.
He is a believer without a god, a man committed to the idea of ‘doing a little good’. But his ideals are no match for a city teeming with unrest and racial hatred, where riots in the banlieus are an ever-present threat to society. De wandelaar (The Walker) is a powerful, socially aware novel as well as an emotionally involving story of a loner who tries to give his life meaning in an ever more extreme world.