Tuesday, November 28, 2006

After a long time of floundering through this book by Ian Buruma about Theo van Gogh I finally finished. Finished means that I gave up, because I had a hard time getting through Buruma's romanticized view of anyone and anything connected with the Netherlands. He says he left the country as a young adult because he found it boring, but he never stops pointing out how amazing it is that he PLAYED ON THE PLAYGROUND with people who stayed in their home country and became a part of that small elite which is the Amsterdam intelligentsia. I, on the other hand, am not impressed by the fact that whatever famous writer pushed him off the swings at age 4. His book lacks structure and it also lacks authority; Being from the Netherlands, he actually approaches the subject with more prejudice than the average journalist who is interested in a new topic and goes at it with an open mind. The book makes many fine points, and I won't discount the book completely. But the low point of the book was when he indicated that Mohammed Bouyeri's ideas (the guy who killed Van Gogh) :
"also have a deeply European provenance, to be found in the right-wing politics of the 1930s as well as in a long left-wing tradition of anti-Americanism."
Oh please, the murderer's ideas have zero provenance, because he is not an intellectual like you.
I do appreciate what Buruma is trying to do, to describe for his English-speaking audience what the political and social realities of the Netherlands are right now. But in doing so, he over-intellectualizes and romanticizes the whole thing. Like this sentence about a soccer game in Rotterdam:
"Like all carnivals, this patriotic feast, with shades of a Breughel painting, was a fantasy..."
His descriptions of Ayaan Hirsi Ali seem tinged with Buruma's love of her looks, and they show me that actually Ali fails to represent anyone in her tirades and provocations. And isn't that what elected politicians are supposed to do, instead of going on personal crusades?
His dismissal of Geert Wilders is interesting, seeing as how Wilders won lots of votes in the last election; obviously he is so fixated on Amsterdam in this book that the situation in the rest of the country is incomprehensible to him.

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