First published by The Big Issue in April 2015
First published in 2012 as Dit zijn de namen, award-winning Dutch novelist Tommy Wieringa’s These Are the Names poses some fantastic and timely questions. Is there any point at all in knowing where you came from? Is it futile to hope your past will shape your future? How does if feel to be ‘chosen’?
In the fictional Soviet town of Michailopol, Police Commissioner Pontus Beg befriends the local Rabbi, in hopes of getting to the bottom of his own suspected Jewish lineage. Plagued by tinnitus and one perpetually cold foot, Beg may not always be likeable but he is unfailingly real.
Meanwhile, in a seemingly endless landscape, a group of malnourished refugees searching for civilisation do what they must to survive. In this tiny, troubled motley crew, desperation, suspicion and violence are rife and with each small victory and devastating hurdle, we see Wieringa’s knack for the interplay of tension and release.
Wieringa is skilled in the art of world building and, while some readers may find the action a little sparse, the eventual collision between the two quests is a satisfying one.