Geschiedenis van de wereld

A kaleidoscope of our present-day world

In Zwerm (Swarm) Peter Verhelst has generated a kaleidoscope of the violence, commotion, tense relationships, conflicts and outbursts of our present-day world. Some storylines refer to real events such as the My Lai massacre of the Vietnam War or the attack on the Twin Towers, both manifestations of mindless violence. However, Verhelst recreates reality in the form of a literary thriller that has been assembled in fragments, like a film. Some characters are grafted on to controversial figures who were briefly newsworthy.

Most are fictional: a young computer nerd who makes viruses and is traced through sophisticated techniques because of the secret he carries, his kidnapped girlfriend, a pianist, an Israeli scientist who has to abandon his family at a critical moment and assume a new identity. Their lives intermittently overlap in a world that seems overrun by electronic detection and espionage, computer crime, international political conspiracies and terrorism, war crimes, liquidations, and cover-ups. The action takes place mainly in Europe and the United States, Israel and Palestine.

One recurring motif is how impossible it is to compile a total picture from a glut of fragments and details, of making a clear and comprehensible survey of our current overstrung world. ‘As always, there are more invisible things than visible, and the invisible things are the fundamental ones,’ says one character. The author also uses secret codes and symbols.

For example, the page numbers run from 666 (the number of the Beast) to zero, the ‘black hole’ into which everything disappears. The typography is also assigned a separate function. The initial ‘V’ of ‘virus’, for example, also refers to the hope for a new future for the totally contaminated world of today.

Peter Verhelst has produced a tour de force. With its unusual structure and strong cinematic composition, Zwerm is overwhelming. Its concepts are strong and exciting, and its style powerful and enthusiastic. Its puzzling, fragmentary plot lacking any conclusion, a striking example of present-day modernist prose, without precedent. This is a book that will find its own public.

Zwerm is undoubtedly a landmark in capturing a new era,. It already deserves to be called a classic, regardless of how strange the term ‘classic’ sounds for a novel that wishes to negate every tradition.

De Tijd


Zwerm. Geschiedenis van de wereld (2005). Fiction, 672 pages.



Herengracht 540
NL - 1017 CG Amsterdam
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 624 19 34
Fax: +31 20 622 54 61

[email protected]

lees meer