Magazine article World Literature Today

De Lêste Floed

Magazine article World Literature Today

De Lêste Floed

Article excerpt

Durk van der Ploeg. De lêste floed. Ljouwert, Netherlands. Het Nieuwe Kanaal. 2016. 274 pages.

In his eighties now, Durk van der Ploeg shows little evidence that he's losing his literary touch. His latest, De lêste floed (The last flood), brings the reader back to familiar Van der Ploeg territory, where the windswept, forsaken area near Friesland's northern seashore often serves as an apt metaphor for its isolated settlers waging an ongoing struggle for survival.

Conflict drives most stories, and, with Van der Ploeg, conflict usually entails nature, others, and self. In De lêste floed, Tjserk Vogel is in conflict with all three. He spends his life, as did his father, trying to reclaim slices of land lost to the sea during violent storms in the past. A solitary figure, he struggles in the muck from early morning light till dusk, obsessed with the dream of expanding his land. But his single-minded, futile obsession turns his heart into the slimy swamp in which he labors every day, placing him in destructive conflict with his long-suffering wife, his two sons, and ultimately himself.

Tjserk's second son, Arjen, the narrator of the novel, is the most wounded victim of his father's inhumanity. Rejected and disowned already as a young boy, he carries that soul-scarring curse with him for a lifetime. The years add more: the wife he loved divorces him; the daughters he loves driftaway; the brother he loved mysteriously disappears on a voyage to South Africa; the mother he loved dies of lung cancer; the father whose love he always needed commits suicide. …

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