Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chapter 2

One big difference between Kaas and most American novels is that there is no, "Sensitive writer," nonsense. "I'm just the nice guy telling the story about these other people and their dysfunction."

Instead, we get a narrator who begins his story while drinking too much. From there, he goes home and unsuccessfully tries to go to bed without waking his wife.* Then, there's a knock on the door, and he's summoned to his mother's side. In a warm room full of people, the beer makes its presence felt. He narrowly avoids vomiting. He feels the appropriate emotions, but he's really concerned about how to make an exit. Finally, he leaves, following his brother out the door.

At the funeral, he meets Mr. Van Schoonbeke, whose name looks like a tagname that I can't quite render into English without a long explanation and speculation.

The family is obviously Catholic. There is a nun at the house when the mother dies. She is a kind of gentle angel of death. A priest is shown at the funeral.

The story started me wondering about religious diversity in Europe and how history is taught outside of the US. While learning about Europe, we hear about how it divided up into Catholic and Protestant countries. It is only later that we find out that such borders weren't so exact, and that after the religious wars, alliances were made along different lines that changed over time.

In the US, we learn about other countries in an American context. Consequently, we learn a lot about Britain before 1776. Britain reappears briefly in 1812 and again in World War 1, if the class gets that far. In the Southwest, as in Mexico, Spain disappears in 1810. The countries we learn about either had big empires or a big part in settling the country.

American classes on recent history cover modern Europe, but there is almost nothing about how it got that way.

Belgium mainly shows up on maps. Occasionally, it gets a brief mention as NATO headquarters or the capital of The European Union. The part of our population most aware of it is beer connoisseurs. Belgian beer is in vogue right now.

*I wondered about this course of action. If he succeeded, he could lie and say he got home earlier. He would run into trouble if she had gone to sleep 15 minutes before he arrived. She might think he arrived even later than he did. On the other hand, if he made no effort and let her wake up, she could look at the clock.

No comments:

Post a Comment