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Geert Mak - Great Expectations

Upon reaching the end of a book there is always the sense of a sort of melancholic anticipation. On the one hand there is the exciting prospect of diving into something new, a new world of fiction or new non-fictional insights, on the other hand a certain tristesse for leaving what had become a travelling compagnon.

It’s a duality that is so well-known that it can become comfortable in itself.

I have just finished reading Geert Mak’s latest creation, Grote Verwachtingen (or Great Expectations in English), which is the successor of In Europa.

As usual I am met with the above described emotions, yet this time the tristesse is overwhelming, and that is due both to the fact that there is no more to read and to the contents of the work.

Where his In Europa - an overview of where Europe was at the end of the 20th century - ended on a positive, optimistic note, the atmosphere is quite gloom in Great Expectations, in which he wanted to see what had become of that optimism. Since it’s all very recent history, the insights he brings through numerous testimonies are real eye-openers; some of these stories are quite the opposite of a fun read.

However, I find this book to be a must-read, as I am convinced we need to get in touch more with each other, get to know each other’s principles and sentiments to move forward together as a society, in order to face the challenges ahead. Our current health crisis makes it abundantly clear that we have no need for social fragmentation, quite on the contrary.

Fortunately, there is always hope.

As Geert Mak writes:

‘Never, never the future resembles the present.’ (My own translation.)

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