Heartbreaking, fascinating, convincing
In De overgave (Surrender), Arthur Japin tells the heartbreaking, horrific and cruel story of Sallie ‘Granny’ Parker, a devout white colonist who moves further and further West with her husband, daughters and grandchildren in order to build a new life. Arthur Japin has set his new novel in the ‘New World’ of early and mid-nineteenth century America, basing it on historical facts, moulded to his own ends.
The Parkers build their small settlement in Texas, in the middle of the rough, inhospitable terrain of the Comanchee Indians.
One day they are brutally attacked by the Comanchee - the men are hunted down, scalped and killed; a number of young mothers and their children are kidnapped, and Granny Parker is nailed to the ground with spears and raped several times. ‘That one day,’ is how De overgave starts. ‘People always ask about that one day. As if I didn’t live another one.’
Miraculously, Granny Parker survives ‘that one day’ and from then onwards, she devotes her life to finding her lost family, filled with hatred and bent on revenge. Amazingly, she manages to find all of them, although it doesn’t end well for the young women once reunited with Granny, having lived for years with the Indians. Divided by two cultures, despised by everyone, their heads full of terrible and confused memories, they either die or choose to die.
The girls’ sense of being torn links De overgave to De zwarte met het witte hart (The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi), Japin’s beautiful debut in which two young black Ashanti princes are given as a present to King William I, robbing them of their sense of belonging - neither in Holland nor in Africa, forever held captive by fate. Both novels are characterised by melancholy, written powerfully, poignantly. Japin is a master of creating an enchanting yet harrowing atmosphere.
In De overgave (Surrender) - the title says it all - Granny Parker is eventually forced to embrace that which she hates most, to show understanding, to offer forgiveness and accept her sad fate. ‘She’s tough as nails, that old one,’ people say. Granny Parker’s struggle with the demons of her past is long and hard, and ends in a true climax. But because she is not portrayed as soft and typically feminine, but as contrary, headstrong and tough, her story remains fascinating and Arthur Japin’s new novel convincing.