notes on dutch literature

The Guard – Peter Terrin

In Review on December 10, 2012 at 8:46 AM

Peter Terrin
Harry and Michel live in the basement of a luxury apartment block, guarding the inhabitants. No-one goes outside. The world might be at war – it might even have been plunged into nuclear winter. No-one knows. All Harry and Michel know is that if they are vigilant, ‘the Organization’ will reward them: promotion to an elite cadre of security officers remains their shining goal. But what if there were no-one left to guard? And if the promised relief shift arrives, how will they fit in to Michel and Harry’s studied routine of boredom and paranoia?

The Guard by Flemish writer Peter Terrin, was translated by David Colmer and published by MacLehose Press. The Guard won the European Prize for Literture. He was nominated for major literary awards several times, including the AKO Literature Prize and the Libris Literature Prize. He recently won the AKO Literature Prize this year for his most recent novel Post Mortem.

Peter Terrin represents a unique voice in contemporary Dutch-language literature, touching on universal and highly topical themes alike. Terrin, who has been described as ‘a master of ominous detail’, is considered by critics to be a literary maverick, a classic writer who doesn’t follow trends, and a masterful stylist.

‘There’s a cold and beautiful precision to Peter Terrin’s writing, and a remorselessness and finally terrifying accretion of detail that begins by seeming fussy and ends by being unsettling’ SFX.

The Guard is so good, its world so minutely described and Michel so undeniably compelling that to suggest anything other than to pick this up and read it immediately would be to do it a disservice’ SciFi Now.

It’s not a lengthy book, but whereas some genre writers would have a field-day in providing a novella around this brilliant situation, Terrin keeps us there for the longer haul, and successfully fleshes out his creation to a full-length novel that has much more in common with Pinter – a relentless masculinity, a wilful drive through the darker side of life, and a gripping sense of control over its audience. While we are isolated in just one fraction of a rarefied, seemingly apocalyptic world, and we cannot be sure what the two characters have full control over, the reader is with Terrin to the end, making this one of the more intriguing variants of the thriller you will come across this year. The Book Bag

Peter Terrin will be one of the six writers touring to six UK cities during the High Impact literary festival, January 14th – January 19th 2013.

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