The Quest, De Kleine Johannes

Remember my tangent from the other day about historical context, and how important it is to know the environment in which the book you are reading was written?

I just finished a horribly confusing book–until I googled. Sometimes, I just get so far in over my head that I have to look up what the book is about. And that’s ok. Reading these great works is about learning–if I don’t understand something from the book itself, I’m not above looking up the SparkNotes or Wiki!

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When I started reading Frederik van Eeden’s book, I thought it was going to be a book for children. Part I begins so sweetly, sort of an Alice in Wonderland meets The Hobbit type story. Johannes comes across a dragonfly that turns into a fairy-like creature, who shrinks him down to grass-size and takes him on an adventure. It’s a story that begs to be read chapter by chapter at night to a couple of tucked-in youngsters.

But then, the story kind of goes off a cliff and gets dark and darker. It twists and turns and becomes unrecognizable from where it begins, almost if the author descended into madness after he started. I quickly became confused, and probably should have given it up–but Part I was so delightful, I kept hoping it would go back to that.

It never did. The book becomes extremely evangelical, almost punishing in its sermons–at the same time it is full of crushing doubt. Like I said…it really felt like the narrator, if not the author himself, was not in control of his mind.

And then, in Part III, the book starts eluding to socialism and the Social Democratic Workers’ Party. It’s called a different name in the book, but it sounded so familiar that it clicked, and I knew the book was written in Holland just before WWI, so bam, that was it! Once I looked up that Party (<–Click there) it all made so much more sense. All the back and forth between religion and doubt, I THINK is a metaphor for the extremes in the party. There was so much that eluded to the battles between the branches. The Twelve Apostles fit in with that too. I could be way off, but it sure made the book come together for me.

This was a very difficult book to read, but it’s the first Dutch translation I’ve read, so I wanted to stick with it. If anyone has additional analysis on this, I’d love to hear it. I’m still very unsure about how I’ve interpreted it, but I had a hard time finding notes on this in English.

 

Also–I’ve been doing really great about getting a post up every day, but I’ve finally caught up with myself! Because I finished this book late in the day (and we have plans tonight) I am not sure I’ll be able to get one up tomorrow. We’ll see. If not, I’ll resume on Monday. Have a great weekend!

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