Moederland, Part Four: terra in/cognita, by Johannes Klabbers

Johannes Klabbers is a Dutch/Australian writer and posthumanist therapist, currently living in Europe. He is the author of I Am Here: Stories From A Cancer Ward (Scribe Aus/UK 2016), which tells the story of an academic in the Australian outback who takes a voluntary redundancy and reinvents himself as a secular pastoral worker in the largest cancer hospital in the southern hemisphere. The Australian described it as “wonderfully insightful”. His website is johannesk.com and he tweets @johklab, is on Facebook @johkla and blogs on Medium @johannesk.

This piece is from Issue Twenty of Tincture Journal. Please support our work and buy a copy today.

Grenswisselkantoor Centraal Station Utrecht, The Netherlands, 1967. Photographer: L.H.Hofland. Used by permission. Copyright: Het Utrechts Archief.

 

The country of my childhood lives within me with a primacy that is a form of love. It lives within me despite my knowledge of our marginality and its primitive unpretty emotions. Is it blind and self deceptive of me to hold on to its memory? […] All it has given me is the world but that is enough. It has fed me language, perceptions, sounds, the human kind. It has given me the colours and the furrows of reality, my first loves. The absoluteness of those loves can never be recaptured: no geometry of the landscape, no haze in the air, will live in us as intensely as the landscapes that we saw as the first and to which we gave ourselves wholly, without reservations.

—Eva Hoffman, Lost in Translation

In speaking of this desire for our own far off country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency.

—C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

 

Prologue

i can’t work.

i can’t write.

there is nothing i can do.

i have to write something for tincture, they are waiting for it, my last piece for the last issue of tincture, the last episode of moederland. the deadline was wednesday. but i can’t write. can i write that i can’t write? can i write this? maybe this is the only thing i can write.

i go for a long walk.

it’s so beautiful. the autumn air is soft.

there was a death in the family, unexpected, violent. the funeral was the day before yesterday and all of a sudden i am here. i was never there before. for all but one of the major life/death events that occurred in the circle of family and friends over the past forty years i’ve been in australia on the other end of a phone, saying … what?

what can you say on the phone?

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Moederland, Part Three: Stolen Property, by Johannes Klabbers

Johannes Klabbers is a Dutch/Australian writer and posthumanist therapist, currently living in Europe. He is the author of I Am Here: Stories From A Cancer Ward (Scribe Aus/UK 2016), which tells the story of an academic in the Australian outback who takes a voluntary redundancy and reinvents himself as a secular pastoral worker in the largest cancer hospital in the southern hemisphere. The Australian described it as “wonderfully insightful”. His website is johannesk.com and he tweets @johklab, is on Facebook @johkla and blogs on Medium @johannesk.

Offices of the Coöperatieve Raiffeisenbank, St. Jacobsstraat,  Utrecht, The Netherlands by night in 1957. Photographer : L.H.Hofland. Used by permission. Copyright: Het Utrechts Archief.

Johannes Klabbers is thinking through what it could mean to write postfiction. This is the third of four postfiction pieces to be published in Tincture in 2017, all available in the journal and online. See also postfiction.space.

When I was thirteen I thought being Dutch was really crap. So boring and useless. We couldn’t stop our country being invaded by the Germans. And we couldn’t beat them in the World Cup final either, even with Cruijff and after being 1-0 up within the first two minutes. We made one ugly little car called a DAF that no one wanted, and everything had an old people smell. We spoke a stupid language which you could only use to communicate with other boring Dutch people. Things and people from England and Amerika, on the other hand, were exciting and interesting. When the opportunity came to go and live in England where the Beatles and the Stones (and the Who! and the Kinks!) were from, I couldn’t believe my luck. But the harsh reality was that the life of a fourteen-year-old schoolboy in the outer suburbs of London in the early 70s was no picnic. And I was still Dutch!

What would have happened if I’d gone to New York, or for that matter, LA, or Berlin? But I didn’t. I went to London and, eight years later, an Australian woman I met there, bought me a ticket to Australia.

A fragment from an old song drifts up from the unconscious. The voice says:

You stumble, sometimes fall.

Pick yourself up!

Hold yourself up to the light!

Duck your head!

Watch for the blade!

If you could pick any time in history after 26 January 1788 to arrive in Sydney, Australia, what would it be? I’ll leave that hanging for a moment but I bet you know what my answer is going to be.

Which Australian band would, in time, become the subject of a Belgian Trivial Pursuit question?

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Moederland, Part Two: Memorable Humiliations, by Johannes Klabbers

Johannes Klabbers is a Dutch/Australian writer and posthumanist therapist, currently living in Europe. He is the author of I Am Here: Stories From A Cancer Ward (Scribe Aus/UK 2016), which tells the story of an academic in the Australian outback who takes a voluntary redundancy and reinvents himself as a secular pastoral worker in the largest cancer hospital in the southern hemisphere. The Australian described it as “wonderfully insightful”. His website is johannesk.com and he tweets @johklab, is on Facebook @johkla and blogs on Medium @johannesk.

Johannes Klabbers is thinking through what it could mean to write postfiction. This is the second of four postfiction pieces to be published in Tincture in 2017 (the first is available here). See also postfiction.space.

Of all the exotic and unusual cities in the world that I could have moved to, I find myself in a place with which I am intimately familiar while at the same time being disconcertingly strange.

It is strange because it ought to be familiar—and then it can be suddenly and unexpectedly familiar when it should be strange. It is familiar because I was born here, almost sixty years ago, and I lived here until I was fourteen. Since then I have visited briefly a few times while learning how to be an adult in England and then Australia. It is strange because half the town is no longer there. It was demolished and rebuilt and now it is being partially demolished again and refurbished to make it look more like every other big shopping mall in the world instead of some dreamy Dutch architect’s imperfectly executed vision from the sixties when town planners predicted that no one in the twenty-first century would be riding bicycles.

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Moederland, Part One: I’m Not From Around Here, by Johannes Klabbers

Johannes Klabbers is a Dutch/Australian writer and posthumanist therapist, currently living in Europe. He is the author of I Am Here: Stories From A Cancer Ward (Scribe Aus/UK 2016), which tells the story of an academic in the Australian outback who takes a voluntary redundancy and reinvents himself as a secular pastoral worker in the largest cancer hospital in the southern hemisphere. The Australian described it as “wonderfully insightful”. His website is johannesk.com and he tweets @johklab, is on Facebook @johkla and blogs on Medium @johannesk.

Johannes Klabbers is thinking through what it could mean to write postfiction. This is the first of four postfiction pieces to be published in Tincture in 2017. See also postfiction.space.

I

Belonging can be fleeting. I feel it for the first time briefly, six months after moving back to Europe, in the baker’s on Christmas Eve queueing for a tulband cake—as especially requested by Moeder who never asks for anything, almost always refuses everything, and only ever gives you what you mostly don’t want.

I’ll bring a stol too, I tell Moeder on the phone.

—Oh no, I already have two.

Yes but this one is from the best baker in town. Yours are from the LIDL, two for the price of one? And no extra charge for the E202.

—What’s E202?

It stops mould growing.

—Oh I should get some for the bathroom!

That deserves an audible giggle. I dutifully oblige.

Maybe you should keep your stol from the LIDL there!

I can tell she’s smiling from her voice.

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