Moving, intelligent and suspenseful
The new novel Gitte by Kristien Hemmerechts is undoubtedly a further highpoint to her oeuvre. In a captivating story about the long-ago murder of a forest ranger she confronts her characters with the question: Can evil be hereditary? In part one Gitte, an adolescent in an apparently harmonious family, is living near the French border, close to nature. Her elder brother Woud is thrown out of balance by an incident in the forest and to everyone’s surprise his mother, a therapist, takes him straight to a psychiatric institution. It becomes clear that she is suffering the aftershocks of a broken-off relationship with a poet years earlier.
In part two Gitte is studying literature at university when she comes into contact with the poet’s son. Her unsatisfied desires sometimes lead her to visit a dance bar over the border, where she throws herself into anonymous sex. She discovers that her great grandfather, far from being murdered by the two wretches who were convicted for the crime, was killed by his wife for being unfaithful to her in that same bar. Gitte’s mother and the poet know this, and because of her fear of the ‘murderer’s gene’ her mother has warped the upbringing and personalities of her children. ‘We carry history inside us, even when it remains hidden from us,’ Gitte learns from Martin Heidegger.
Its subtle play with its themes and symbols provides the novel with an extraordinary point of view. The boundaries that have to be overstepped, literally and figuratively, show how difficult it is for us truly to get through to one another. The author probes her characters’ darker motives, their hidden histories. With her enigmatic perspective on why people do what they do, Kristien Hemmerechts keeps the reader under her spell all the way to the astonishing final scene.