Astrid H. Roemer
Looks Like Love
In Dutch the word ‘lijken’ has two meanings, as a result this book’s title can be read in two ways: it can mean ‘approaching or looking like love’ but it could also mean ‘love buried under dead bodies’. In this novel, set in Surinam in December 1999, we follow the life of Cora Sewa, a housekeeper whose opinion is seldom or never asked but whose discretion is often required. Someone who has eyes and ears but is expected to keep quiet about what she has witnessed.
Astrid Roemer, though, does give this voiceless woman a chance to speak, something that will come as no surprise to those familiar with the rest of Roemer’s oeuvre. She often chooses Surinamese women as her main characters to show, in no uncertain terms, just what male-dominated society suppresses and represses. In Roemer’s hands, the personal story of the housekeeper, who twice in her life has been indirectly involved in dubious murder cases, becomes an example of the inextricable entanglement of the personal and the political. Stories from the past – about independence, the political murders of December 1982, Desi Bouterse’s regime – are used to show how this complex mixture has always dominated Surinamese society, even in the days when the country was a Dutch colony. Corruption, sex scandals and murder are the order of the day.
The fairy tale of a virgin servant girl in a tropical paradise is shattered. The womans learning process is illuminating and painful at the same time. In Roemer’s view, Surinam will not enter the new century unscathed. But she lets the hope of better times – of love’s victory over the bodies – shine through. Cora’s life story is significant for everyone, the authorities, the repressed, and all who read this book.