We Are Light
A brilliantly written, richly faceted novel about the profound human need for belonging
Four members of a commune stop eating because from now on they want to live on light and air. The characters in Gerda Blees’ novel each have their own reasons for this extreme decision, which ends up costing the protagonist, Elisabeth, her life. This magnificent story is loosely based on true events.
Each of the 25 chapters opens with the words ‘We are…’ and is told by a different narrator: from Elisabeth’s parents and siblings, the neighbors and her sister’s lawyer to the night, the daily bread, the scent of an orange, dementia, doubt, and Elisabeth’s own body. Each narrator has a unique and distinct voice and makes an essential contribution to the novel’s complex tapestry.
For example, bit by bit we learn more about Elisabeth’s sister Melodie, a failed cellist and the leader of the commune, as well as two other members of the group, the cheerful Muriël and the troubled Petrus.
Elisabeth’s body tells us how much it yearned for attention and the touch of loving hands. We find out from the daily bread that Muriel has a hard time resist ing its lure. The pen tells us that mem bers of the commune used him to write letters to parents whom they were no longer speaking to.
Even the story itself appears as one of the narrators. It tells us that the author did not want to provide an explanation for her characters’ unstable lives: ‘She wants to leave the mystery that is Elisabeth intact, because according to her that’s what real life is like too – other people, especially the dead, are mysteries that can’t be solved, no matter how frustrating that might be […]’
Gerda Blees is a compelling storyteller who writes with forensic precision – and with great humor. We Are Light is gripping from the first page to the last. It’s a moving novel, but at the same time there’s enough light and air.