Peter Terrin (b.1968) 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. He has also written for the theatre and is active as a columnist. Terrin has been nominated for major literary awards several times, including the AKO Literature Prize and the Libris Literature Prize. For De bijeneters, he was awarded the West Flanders Prize for Literature. The film rights to Blanco were sold to CCCP in Brussels, with the production selected for the Berlinale Co-Production Market in 2008.
Translated by David Colmer
By breaking the silence the cyclist has confirmed it. He’s locked it down. The sound of his passing was the turning of the key. There is no one in the city except a halfwit on an old bike and two guards in a cellar. Harry was wrong. There is no last resident left in the building; after all this time we would have seen some sign of life. Everyone’s gone, everyone has fled. The city wasn’t evacuated, its inhabitants just ran for it as best they could. Harry, me and the mad cyclist have been left behind. No one informed us. Just as some people predicted, a new kind of war has arrived – conveniently referred to as the New War. A war whose very existence is subject to question, no one knowing whether it’s already raging or yet to start. Something from a futuristic novel. The weapons and the wounds they cause, the objectives and who’s set them are anybody’s guess. And that is the chief characteristic of this world war. That’s what makes everyone flee: the enemy is unknown. We’ve slipped off the organisation’s radar. After a nuclear attack on the south coast they would have come to pick us up. After a viral terrorist attack they would have done everything in their power to lift the quarantine in this crucial part of the city as soon as possible. Harry and I have been left behind. There is no one for us to protect and no concrete threat to the building. Our ongoing posting here is an administrative oversight made by a commander who’s cracked under the pressure. That’s why we no longer hear anything from the organisation – not because we’re doing such an excellent job of taking care of ourselves. That’s why the guard doesn’t show up. They’ve forgotten us.