The Blessed Rita
Tommy Wieringa, Sam Garrett
‘In a certain sense, nothing had changed – two men in a house and a half-century passing without a ripple – but seen with the light from a different angle, none of it had remained the same.’
What is the purpose of a man? Living in a disused farmhouse with his elderly father, Paul Kruzen is not sure he knows anymore. The mill his grandfather toiled in is closed, the glory of the Great Wars is long past, and it has been many years since his mother escaped in the arms of a Russian pilot, never once looking back. What do they have to look forward to now?
Saint Rita, the patron saint of lost causes, watches over Paul and his best friend Horseradish Hedwig, two misfits at odds with the modern world, while Paul takes comfort in his own Blessed Rita, a prostitute from Quezon. But even she cannot protect them from the tragedy that is about to unfold.
In this darkly funny novel about life on the margins of society, Dutch sensation Tommy Wieringa asks what happens to those left behind.
'A tale of people who have been left behind because they are not going anywhere, told with bitter humour ... The Blessed Rita reveals just how much we have in common.' -- David Mills * The Sunday Times * Praise for Tommy Wieringa: 'The best contemporary novels are a quest made out of literary and moral ambition. Those who have successfully pursued this Holy Grail in recent times are Bolano with his The Savage Detectives, Sebald in Austerlitz, Coetzee with Disgrace and the late Philip Roth. From now on, to that august list must be added the name of Tommy Wieringa.' * Le Figaro * 'The Blessed Rita is 'the patroness of hopeless causes, of barren women and women who were unhappily married, as well as butchers and meat traders'. Tommy Wieringa tells an engrossing, sometimes funny, and, at its end frightening, story of the mixed fortunes, virtues, and vices of many of the kinds of people who need her succour. He depicts their lives though changing times, cultures, and political circumstances with insight, humane wisdom, and an eye for detail and ear for tone that is given only to someone whose heart is as lucid as his mind is sharp. He does it in prose that is always simple, yet which becomes poetry so unexpectedly that it takes one's breath away.' -- Raimond Gaita 'An elegiac and beautifully written portrayal of a Dutch border village at the coalface of a New Europe, and a haunting tale of a man struggling to find purpose in a rapidly changing world, walking a tightrope between goodness and unresolved rage.' -- Arnold Zable 'Critical, dark, and profound fiction.' * Le Monde * 'With Tommy Wieringa you expect a masterpiece, just as you did with writers like Willem Elsschot. And he never disappoints.' * De Nieuwsbv, NPO Radio 1 * 'An ode to the silent ones of the Twente region.' FOUR STARS * Elsevier * 'The Blessed Rita is a wonderfully beautiful book, even without the plot-driven apotheosis.' * Telegraaf * 'Tommy Wieringa writes about his hopeless causes with empathy; he looks at them with old, wise eyes; he does them justice.' (Book of the Month) * Vrij Nederland * 'In terms of style and imagery, Wieringa's best book ... Wieringa's style in The Blessed Rita is more powerful and concentrated than ever ... Though you can hear the writer speaking warily through his characters about the new times, in which the animals have disappeared from the pastures, in which the sick are only interested in their smartphones, it doesn't wallow in nostalgia. The Blessed Rita is an ode to the Twente region, but above all it is a funny and moving plea for compassion. Compassion for those who are rooted and no longer able to move in a rapidly developing world - the hopeless causes.' * Trouw * 'Tommy Wieringa demonstrates with The Blessed Rita that he belongs in the pantheon of Dutch literature. Amidst all of the desolation, compassion proves to be the dominant tone ... Wieringa's personal involvement can be felt in everything. Being familiar with the landscapes, the colours and the light, he brings the region stirringly to life ... With an equally masterful precision he describes the leaden grey lives of his characters. In a vortex of tragicomic scenes he paints the desolation and the deadlock of life at the edge of the abyss. No one can save these hopeless causes, not even their patron saint Rita. And yet they can count on our sympathy, so convincing is the compassion that Wieringa evokes ... More than just the story of a lost man, this is a portrait of a time in which those who can't keep up, lose out. A lament for those left behind, and an ode to two clumsy men who despite the disappointment keep taking care of one another.' * De Tijd * 'Wieringa said this novel "cost blood, sweat and tears", but there is not a single moment in which you feel that four year struggle. The way in which he reconciles the tragedy of the "bumpkins" with a literary tumble in wet spring grass is astonishing. At the same time, when it comes to content, you aren't left with empty hands: migration is a burning issue, and lives that hopelessly run aground and are beyond saving transcend the ages. Just like this novel.' FIVE STARS * Het Nieuwsblad * 'The masterful The Blessed Rita is at once both The Great Twente Novel and completely European ... The Blessed Rita tells the story of a shrinking life in a shrinking region - but Wieringa's version of that familiar story feels like the ultimate one. Because: it's described in flawless bulls-eyes of sentences that are rich in metaphor and symbolism, but which don't cross over into melodrama. Precisely for that reason, they evoke associations with the style of Wieringa's literary role model James Salter ... Wieringa displays his full abilities as a storyteller and manages them masterfully ... In the end this story is not just about big themes like shrinking regions, xenophobia or the revenge of the man-driven-into-dire-straits, but Wieringa also concerns himself with the people - he brings the big story back down to human proportions. The novels ends with a surprisingly tender and tragic note - Wieringa doesn't only show it, he lets you feel it.' FIVE STARS * NRC Handelsblad * 'It is his best book, his master hand has developed itself again. The depth is deeper, the views stretch farther. His style approaches perfection, or surpasses it. His use of figurative language is economical. It's used only when it's dead-on.' FIVE STARS * Algemeen Dagblad * 'A tragicomedy of Joe Speedboat-calibre, on village souls lost amidst the modern times and the poignant clumsiness of male friendships. A wonderful novel.' * VPRO Gids * 'With a good eye for remarkable stories and sharp dialogues, Wieringa sketches an inky black portrait of a meagre emotional life and a perverse small-town culture.' * De Standaard * 'This novel full of autobiographic humus sizzles with ambition ... In The Blessed Rita, Wieringa quietly revels in scenes struck sweetly with an exuberance of colour, deposited with careless writer's joy and grimly comedic tones. He writes like a fearless showboat in a bar, tethering his listeners to his every word ... From these miniscule, damaged lives, Tommy extracts a very sensual book, drunk with language and written with a stylistic precision you will envy.' FOUR STARS * De Volksrant *
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