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The Discomfort of Evening (by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld)

As the weeks pass by after finishing this book, I realise more and more how perturbing the experience was. It’s like a lingering nightmare from nights gone by which looms every night, threatening to return while you sleep, to terrorise your dreams with a complex distorted reality of cold, coats, toads, rabbits, cows and “the other side”.

The Discomfort of Evening, known in Dutch as De Avond is Ongemak written by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, is a whirlwind to say the least.

It is an easy read which is a pro, full of ample descriptions of this world which is described which is so visual yet so drab and gray, I can imagine the featureless landscape, as I write this looking out the gray skies of Belgium on a winter morning. I can picture the mud, the fields, the cows, as when I run long distances I often stumble upon many farms, with the cows grazing, often looking up at me as I run by and then returning to their rumination. I always wondered what kind of people live in these farms, how do they live their lives, and this book gives a portrayal of a glimpse into this life, albeit heavily distorted by the family’s circumstances.

Speaking of rumination, I still can’t digest this book. It is an endurance run of pain or a marathon of grimness, every page gray and drab, a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth, like blood. This is not to say it is badly written, as the language and the story carry beautifully from page to page, similar to how the monotonous voice of Charlie (aka MoistCr1TiKaL) on his YouTube channel delivers his videos, starkly honestly without a facade, direct, blunt, piercing. In this same light the book reads like an honest down-to-earth journal, narrating the smallest yet nastiest intricacies of the daily life of a troubled family in a run-down town in the middle of nowhere in the Netherlands.

I have mixed feelings after reading this book. Marieke crafted a world so unique that if it wasn’t for the mention of a few real world characters I swear it could have been about a run-down farm in Russia or Thailand, or Mars for all I care. It transports you to this place and puts you in those muddy boots and featureless landscape, and it drags you through terrible situation after terrible situation, screaming and kicking.

At times I’d be reading on the train, bus, or plane, hiding the pages from people, afraid they’d catch a glimpse of the perturbing sentences, page after page. It was a diarrhea of all possible intrusive thoughts, everything weird you might have thought of doing, to yourself, or to others, growing up and exploring the world, wondering “why not?”. All of those crazy disgusting weird thoughts, turned into a reality.

I don’t know whether I’d recommend this book. I’m still perturbed by it, so I guess it did its job. 7/10