Unsettling, raw novel
The new, controversial novel Wij (We) by Elvis Peeters is about eight underage boys and girls in a close-knit club who disparage the worlds of school and adulthood as empty and boring. Free and secluded in a shed, they dispel tedium with uninhibited sexual games, continually shifting their limits: they explore each others’ bodies and their own, they make love listlessly, they have to guess which objects are being inserted into their orifices.
When one of them dies as the consequence of rough penetration, even this fails to move them. With no thought of morality, they take to the world of internet sex and prostitution, and continue to believe that they have full control of their own lives and liberty. When the girls begin to tire of this, the boys introduce two new girls who are prepared to fulfil a subordinate, occasionally humiliating role and to prostitute themselves. The book does not conclude with a drama, catharsis nor repentance and the young people even manage to save themselves in confrontation with underworld figures. No matter what they do, they escape apparently intact.
The young people take turns in the first person in telling how they think about and what they do, shamelessly and unaffectedly, how they look at life, and how much they distance themselves from every normative ideal. ‘We had no benchmarks, no measures, we just did things, everything that life invited us to do.’ They are not motivated by rebellion, negativism, pessimism about their future, or desperation. At most, they are characterized by a derisive rejection of their parents’ lifestyle. They are not subject to discomfort or remorse, they refer to themselves as ‘young, not perverse’. But, enclosed in their morally free state, their lack of inhibition puts pressure on the general sense of values.
Elvis Peeters is not aiming at easy success. In his striking realism and the detached tone of the young people’s narratives, he reaches into the unfathomable depths of the existential feeling that prevents this group of adolescents from entering into the adult world. They regard this world as one of universal frustration, compromise and non-fulfilment, whereas they champion absolute freedom and autonomy. Wij is a stunning novel that no one can read and remain unmoved.