That's What I Mean, Said the Salmon

In 'Dát bedoel ik, zei de zalm' (That’s What I Mean, Said the Salmon), Joke van Leeuwen’s characters muse about their own worth and vulnerability.

Joke van Leeuwen
Original title
Dát bedoel ik, zei de zalm

This novella, also illustrated by the author, is told as a relay story, with one character passing on the narrative to another. A piece of fluff is carried by the wind and ends up in the ear of a sportswoman who is just lifting a heavy trophy above her head. As the champion reaches up to scratch her ear, the trophy tumbles into a river, where it starts talking to a passing salmon. Who then gets into a conversation with a grain of sand, and so on. The perspective constantly shifts and so, for a moment, the reader looks through the eyes of someone or something else. Person, animal, plant or object, Van Leeuwen gives them all believable voices with which they often express surprisingly deep thoughts.

Shifting perspectives — that’s what Joke van Leeuwen has excelled in throughout her entire oeuvre. Presenting the world in a slightly different way and creating space for wonder. This small story, full of meandering thoughts and off-beat exchanges, offers that same sense of wonder. As in, for example, the insight that even the puniest grain of sand is of value — if only in the eyes of the grain of sand itself.

Joke van Leeuwen
Joke van Leeuwen (b. 1952) writes prose and poetry for children and adults as well as working as an illustrator and performer.
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