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Dit zijn de namen by Tommy Wieringa

Dit zijn de namen (edition 2012)

by Tommy Wieringa

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2601943,918 (3.77)4
Title:Dit zijn de namen
Authors:Tommy Wieringa
Info:Amsterdam De Bezige Bij 2012
Collections:Your library
Tags:roman, vluchtelingen, corruptie, geloof

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These Are The Names by Tommy Wieringa


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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Erg mooi geschreven, gebeitelde taal, weerbarstig ook. Het is een lange reeks van mooie, rauwe plaatjes. Maar het verhaal zelf is vrij statisch. Aan het eind wordt duidelijk waar het over gaat, maar de schrijver vindt het nodig om dat ook nog eens letterlijk te gaan uitleggen. Het slot is een beetje te simpel. ( )
  stef7sa | Jan 5, 2017 |
Wieringa adopts the opening line of the Book of Exodus for the title of his novel. This is indeed appropriate since he is exploring the issue of migration in THESE ARE THE NAMES. Migration is a timeless theme that still resonates today. It arises from the universal human desire to start over, to survive and experience forms of redemption. It manifests in both physical and spiritual forms. People seeking a better life, escaping harsh conditions like war, repression, hunger and poverty, represent the former. While in the latter, people seek respite from religious intolerance, new identities and meaningful lives.

There are two distinct plots in the novel—one is more physical while the other is spiritual. Seven desperate refugees wander a desolate landscape reminiscent of the Eurasian steppe. They were seduced by human traffickers with the promise of a better life in a promised land only to be betrayed and abandoned. Crossing harsh terrain on foot without food or water, they fall prey to a form of magical thinking that is reminiscent of a religious experience. With this story, Wieringa definitely intends to evoke the image of the migration of the Israelites out of Egypt.

The second plot line focuses on Pontus Beg, who struggles with ageing and making sense of his position in the world. He views himself as “still too young to really be considered old, but he could see the writing on the wall.” His life is “not a failure, but perhaps not the path of wisdom he might have imagined as a child.” Memories of a song his mother used to sing and a menorah she kept hidden prompt him to seek the advice of the last remaining Jew in his community, Rabbi Zalman Eder. He finds the realization that he may be a Jew to be strangely rejuvenating. “That he belonged somewhere, that was the poignant thing.”

Beg is a well-drawn, nuanced character. On the one hand, he is kind and humorous taking his job as a policeman seriously. He can’t forget the murdered female backpacker whose body remains unidentified in the town’s morgue. On the other, Pontus is capable of making a few bucks through corrupt policing, sleeping with his housekeeper, and beating a young man almost to death during a routine traffic stop because he just didn’t like his attitude.

Conversely, the migrant characters are stereotypes, consisting of a tall man, a young boy, an addict, a poacher, an Ethiopian, and a woman. None are well fleshed out in the narrative. In fact this story reads like a fairytale with abundant biblical symbolism but lacking in subtlety. The black man is at first stigmatized, but latter endowed with magical properties that can lead them out of the wilderness.

Wieringa deftly explores themes of justification by faith and the significance of borders. He recognizes the transformative nature of religious belief in Beg’s search for a Jewish identity and the magical thinking of the refugees. The novel also exploits the image of all sorts of borders that can confront migrants—between village and steppe, culture and savagery, past and present. Historically, “borders were soft and permeable, but now they were cast in concrete and hung with barbed wire.” Evoking today’s migratory dilemmas, he writes: “A wave of people crashed against those walls; it was impossible to keep them all back.”

Wieringa’s prose is clear. The mood is unrelentingly dark evoking the post-Soviet collapse of infrastructure and morals with the remote village of Michailopol. Likewise, the steppe is seen as almost Martian in its desolation. The pacing of the two narratives is steady—if a bit slow—moving inevitably toward a collision. Ironically, while musing about the wandering of the Jewish people, Beg is confronted by the reality of another people, who also have wandered in the wilderness and acquired a religion of sorts along the way. ( )
  ozzer | Dec 7, 2016 |
I’ve an interest in Dutch culture because of my husband’s Dutch heritage so when I came across this title by a Dutch writer in some Best Books of 2016 lists, I decided to read it. I’m glad I did.

Alternating chapters tell two stories which eventually merge. In a fictional Eastern European town bordering on the Western Steppe, 53-year-old Pontus Beg, the police commissioner, searches for meaning for his lonely life. Walking west on the steppes is a small group of refugees fleeing poverty and repression. Eventually, Beg meets the migrants when they arrive in his town carrying evidence of a crime.

The novel’s title taken from the opening lines of the Book of Exodus clearly indicates one of its major themes: migration. The frail and starving refugees spend months on the featureless and desolate steppes, like the Israelites who wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. They are not identified by name; they are known as the tall man, the poacher, the young boy, the woman, the Ethiopian, etc. Over time, they lose their possessions and their pasts; some even lose their lives. Even “Their footsteps were wiped out quickly behind them.” Considering events in Europe, this is a very relevant theme.

The human desire to begin again, to be reborn to a new life, is emphasized. Obviously, the refugees left their homes so they could find new lives for themselves and their families. Beg, when he sees a synagogue’s ritual bath, imagines being immersed in it and becoming a new person: “What a pleasant, comforting thought . . . to shed his old soul, that tattered, worn thing, and receive a new one in its stead. Who wouldn’t want that? Who would turn down something like that?”

Our common humanity is also emphasized. Beg is told by a rabbi that Jews are “’a braided rope, individual threads woven to from a single cord. That’s how we are linked’” but that connection obviously applies to all humanity. A refugee looks at the body of one of his fellow travelers and makes a realization: “What were the differences between them again? He couldn’t remember. It had to be there, that bottomless difference, but his hands clutched at air. Now that the delusions had lifted, he saw only how alike they had been in their suffering and despair.”

Part of that humanity is an instinct for self-preservation. What people will do to survive is amazing. The woman in the group resorts to eating sand. The young boy is horrified and understands the feral nature of her actions when he says, “’You can’t eat sand! People don’t eat sand!’” The need to survive means stripping bodies of their clothing and precludes kindness towards others. When one of the refugees gives some food to another who is so weak from lack of food that he is struggling to continue, his compassion is perceived as strange. Even the one who is saved by the man’s self-sacrifice questions his benefactor: “The black man helped him move along and supported him when he could go no farther, but that also meant he was to blame for the way his earthly suffering dragged on. Gratitude and hateful contempt chased each other like minnows at the bottom of a pool.” The young boy best summarizes the disturbing behaviour he witnesses: “And along his way he has seen almost every sin you could imagine – there are so many more of them than he’d ever realized!”

As I read this book, I was reminded of Voltaire’s statement that, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” Voltaire was arguing that belief in God is beneficial and necessary for society to function. The migrants, trying to find meaning in their circumstances, form beliefs resembling a religion: “a shared conviction took hold.” One of the travelers justifies their plundering an old woman’s food supplies by stating, “’She was there for us, so that we could go on.’” They believe they were lead to her by their bodiless god because “they had been chosen”; Beg questions one of the survivors: “’He was on your side; he was only there for you people. Not for some feeble-minded woman; only for you. He allowed you to rob her of everything she had because you people were his favourites, am I right?’” Of course this idea of chosenness is to remind the reader of the belief of the Jews that they are God’s chosen people.

This novel could be called a parable for contemporary times. It seems a simple story but has several messages. A re-reading would undoubtedly reveal more depths.

Please check out my reader's blog (http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Dec 5, 2016 |
These are the names

It was an interesting tale , starting with two parties who meet up half way thru the book.

A group of refugees take on a people smuggler to cross a border , maybe out of Turkmenistan . They are betrayed by the smuggler who drops them off at a phoney border, and sends them off into the desert to look for a new country. Some see the problem and turn back, seven or eight continue and proceed to starve to death , or nearly.

1. The tall man Misha , dies page 150. 2. The man from Ashgabat (Turkmanistan) Akmuhammet Kurbankiliev (p245) 3. Vitaly (Alexander Haç p257) former drug addict and dealer, has septic wound in arm, suffers delirium. 4. The woman, Samira Uygum (p246) is raped by another refugee gives birth after rescue, dies . 5. The youth, Said Mirza is 13yo . 6. The poacher , speaks of "the thicket of horrors" 7. The Ethiopian , Christian with a cross , is outcast from the group, despite saving one who collapses by sharing his food.

I conflated Vitaly with the poacher , until near the end. Pontus Beg is chief policeman in his station , earns by collecting 'on the spot fines' , badly beats one uncooperative truck driver. He has Zita, housekeeper who comforts him once a month. He discovers his mother was a Jew, and consults the local rabbi about realizing his identity as a Jew .

The refugees decide to murder the Ethiopian and cut off his head, and carry the head with them They engage in a fantasy where the boy dreams , and the woman interprets them , leading to change direction . Soon they come on a solitary woman in a deserted farm , eat all her chickens and leave her to starve in the coming winter .

Later, the refugees enter Beg's town and he arrests them and interrogates them. Being filled with recent reading the Torah, he sees a parallel between the refugees and the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt under Moses. ---My thoughts: The book kept my interest till the end . At one stage, I was bored by Beg's wrestling with the issue of converted Jews being a bit inferior to natural-born ones . I got weary of the eternal drudge thru the desert . Reminded me of the miserable story The Road, post-apocalyptic.And I appalled by the group hostility to the black man, because he was black . Did the starvation distort their thinking ? But this might have been a plot device to enable the use of his head , and parallels with Moses and the Israelites . And this further weakens the book.

I saw a few themes: 1. Contemporary relevance of the tale is with our world full of border crossings by refugees .and exploitation by people-smugglers, who took their money, the destroyed their documents. 2. Beg's spiritual search in a life with its limitations. Early he muses on Chinese philosophy "the name is the guest of the thing itself" (page 4) can anyone explain? 3. Parallels with Old Testament stories , especially with Moses and the Israelites. 4. Survival of a group trudging across the great Steppe . ties in with theme 1. 5. I hoped for more to develop in his relationship with Zita. 6. I was interested in the bit about 'the crazy dictator of Turkmenistan ' Turkmenbashi. I expect to learn more about him in the coming weeks. 7. The author avoided telling us the names of the refugees until late in the book. Was this to keep their symbolic value apart from their individual characters ?

We are in Kyrzygistan where they had two corrupt rulers after the fall of Soviet empire 1991. One sold all water supplies to the next country, and for three years , this country was short of electricity. This was because All power here comes from hydropower. People revolted and he now is in comfort in Saint Petersburg. Fortunately , after the second corrupt leader was kicked out, a woman interrum leader oversaw a new parliamentary constitution , enabled elections which international observers pronounced clean . They now have a functioning parliamentary democracy , people are happy -so far . This is more than can be said for the other Stans.

I noted several sections as well written. I liked chapter 14, In Search of Fortune . It introduces the refugees, depicts the tension of the alleged border crossing .

I give it 8/10

Maxim. ( )
  MaximWilson | May 26, 2016 |
Dit zijn de namen is a novel unlike other Dutch novels. The story is confusing, because two story-lines are told in alternating chapters, a common enough device, but neither the connection nor the loci of the minor story-line and main story are clear. The main story is set in Eastern Europe. The un-Dutchness of the novel seems to elevate the story to a higher, more international level.

The main theme of the novel is identity, particularly Jewish identity. In this respect, the novel might be seen as a parabel. A previous novel by Wieringa, Alles over Tristan was also disconnected from Dutch experience, but the human experience was more recognisable, and therefore on the whole more satisfactorily. ( )
  edwinbcn | Apr 23, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Dit zijn de namen is niet dicht op (en ten beste zelfs: onder) de huid van de personages geschreven, zoals zijn twee laatste romans. Zonder die verteltroef is het resultaat ernaar: een vertelling die steriel blijft, ondanks het menselijke leed dat in het vertelde passeert.
Met die opmerkelijke tournure wordt duidelijk wat Wieringa voor ogen heeft gehad met Dit zijn de namen: niet zozeer een verhaal over migratie of over corruptie of het verlangen naar een moeder (een terugkerend element) – maar een roman over religie. En een bijzonder knappe roman bovendien, waarin ook duidelijk wordt waarom Wieringa zijn lezers zo lang de steppe op heeft gestuurd. Niet om de gebeurtenissen daar, maar om een antwoord te vinden op zijn vragen over aard, nut en noodzaak van een geloof. Vragen die Wieringa tot het laatst doodernstig blijft stellen.
added by sneuper | editNRC, Arjen Fortuin (Oct 6, 2012)
In zijn jongste roman 'Dit zijn de namen' probeert Wieringa nadrukkelijk aan te sluiten bij de oudere verteltradities - het boek speelt zich daarbij af in een sombere voormalige Sovjet-republiek.
Dat is literatuur oude stijl, en Tommy Wieringa laat zien dat hij dat vak beheerst, maar je vraagt je wel af waarom hij juist deze richting kiest. Het sprankelende 'Joe Speedboot' was mij liever, al is het ook goed dat een schrijver zijn lezers niet probeert te behagen met meer van hetzelfde. Hij gaat zijn eigen weg, ook zoekende als het ware.
added by sneuper | editTrouw, Rob Schouten (Oct 6, 2012)
Wieringa [vertelt] thematisch gezien een even beproefd als actueel verhaal over altruïsme versus eigenbelang en xenofobie. De manier waarop hij dat doet, is inmiddels kenmerkend: ernstig, welluidend, in marmeren zinnen. En toch ook met een vleugje humor, soms een lichte frivoliteit.
Nog twee maanden te gaan, maar met enige zekerheid valt wel te zeggen dat Dit zijn de namen tot de beste boeken van het jaar behoort. Wieringa heeft de lat weer hoger gelegd. De compositie is vergeleken bij eerder werk scherper en doeltreffender, de hoofdstukken zijn afgetopt en strak als buxushaagjes. Dit is een monumentale roman die naast intelligentie, discipline en originaliteit ('hij had een hart als een walvis') Wieringa's haast wellustige gedrevenheid toont om te perfectioneren.
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