I’m reading a novel called The Dinner by the Dutch writer Herman Koch. It’s a silly best-seller that would have no value save for the stunning and completely casual self-hatred its Dutch protagonist evinces for his country and culture. He is a professor of history, and his vision of Holland’s history is, “. . . and the Christianity was introduced and everything went completely to the dogs. And when Protestantism won, that was the worst thing ever. . . Unfortunately, we won the war and weren’t conquered, which turned us into a black hole on the world map. . . The French despise us and rightfully so. . . What did we ever produce but a couple of silly, useless painters? We are nothing.”*
No explanation is offered for this self-hatred, as if the readers were expected to accept it as absolutely normal and not in need of any further elaboration. And I’m definitely not European enough to get it. Why would anybody hate Holland? It seems kind of random given that there are much worse countries in the world.
We all know that I have a complicated relationship with my country of origin (which is why I left to avoid seething with resentment all day long), but I’d never say that our problem is that we weren’t conquered. If anything, I think it’s the opposite, at least to an extent. Nor would I support our neighbors in despising us (which they clearly do).
*I’m not posting direct quotes because I’m reading the novel in Spanish.