My Grandpa and Me, and Grandma the Pig
A grandma who acts like a pig? Is there anyone out there whose imagination that doesn’t appeal to? Or does the title My Grandpa and Me, and Grandma the Pig actually mean something else? What’s for sure is that it was last year’s most intriguing and original title, which revealed that Marjolijn Hof, following the realistic books that brought her awards and fame, is trying out a different style, characterised by quirky imagination and absurd humour.
And she has done so with great success. With her apt images, she sketches a small yet atmospheric universe in which an eccentric grandfather and his delightfully different granddaughter both entirely and enthusiastically surrender to their imaginations.
This results in some hilarious scenes, such as Grandpa climbing up to do some work on the roof, but being too scared to come back down. And then there’s ‘thing day’ when they can only talk to objects because, says Grandpa, we spend too much time thinking about ourselves and we don’t listen to things properly. The result is that Grandpa asks his mug for a kiss and his granddaughter suggests clearing out the kitchen cupboard because it might feel like being empty for a day.
And yet, no matter how funny their imaginative games might be, Hof always succeeds in keeping reality close by and, without resorting to sentimentality, she lets real life gently trickle in. One of them is nearing the end of his life, while the other is at the beginning, but they both know very well that ‘getting older is something that happens all by itself’, even though time seems to stand still in the safe little world they have created for themselves. ‘You know it can’t go on like this, don’t you?’, the granddaughter asks her grandpa. ‘One day it’ll be over and I won’t come to stay anymore.’
Hof wisely does not introduce any other characters: that would only disturb the close relationship between grandfather and granddaughter. She keeps her story beautifully ‘small’, playing with language, expanding things and inverting them, and suggesting so much through clever dialogue alone. And so the fact that the grandmother’s not around needs no explanation. It’s just as self-explanatory as a pig eating pancakes and a grandfather who one day will no longer be there.