‘Heb je dat, betrokken blanke wereldburger?’ De vluchtelingencrisis, betrokkenheid en opportunisme in twee werken van Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer

Liesbeth Minnaard


The so-called refugee crisis has triggered manifold responses in the field of European art and literature. This paper discusses two works by the Dutch writer Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer as examples of Dutch ‘refugee crisis literature’: his highly acclaimed novel La Superba (2013) and the short-story ‘Fatou yo’ that was published in the text-collection Gelukszoekers (2015), but that is actually also a fragment from the aforementioned novel. I start my comparative discussion of these two texts by exploring the challenges and pitfalls in representing refugees in literature more in general, focusing on the seemingly inescapable trope of refugee victimhood and the humanitarian and empathic mind-set that ‘refugee crisis literature’ mostly requires from its reader. Then I embark on an analysis of the two texts and of the way in which, as I will demonstrate, the texts position and, ultimately, manipulate their empathic reader. I will argue that the discomfort that results from this manipulation is considerably more effective within the framework of La Superba than within the Gelukszoekers-collection, despite the latter’s explicitly activist agenda.


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