Netherland by Joseph O’Neill

When Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland was published, all his books were out of print, and he was (as he puts it) “practically dead and buried as a writer.” It had been hard for the author to find a publisher for the novel, but he didn’t give up. Perhaps it helped that O’Neill, an Irishman raised in the Netherlands, lived in New York City. He says, “in New York you really do have a feeling that it’s almost never too late here. There’s always a glimmer of hope, of something new happening in your life.”

Sure enough. When the Irishman’s novel was published in 2008, it was praised to the skies by the New York Times and the New Yorker. In the span of four days his life changed. An American dream come true. Coincidentally, Netherland is partly about the American dream, and, yes, it has been compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, the perhaps most admired of American novels.

Netherland is mainly a novel about foreigners and immigrants living in the U.S., and at its center stands Hans van den Broek, a displaced Dutch Wall Street oil analyst, whose wife and child have left for London in the aftermath of 9/11. The Dutchman’s marriage is in a crises and he finds solace in his friendship with Chuck Ramkissoon, a shady Trinidadian entrepreneur who has a grand plan to create New York’s own 8,000-seat cricket stadium and expand the sport in America. Ramkissoon’s vision is grand indeed, possibly unrealistic, but is this not what America is famous for – great dreams and hopes for the future. Some may object to this notion and claim that the American dream is no more (research indicate that e.g. economic mobility is higher in Western Europe), but it’s hard to object to the data that indicate that at least New York City continues to have an enduring appeal to people from all over the world. What these foreigners and immigrants bring to America will change the country, and the novel asks, Who is an American and what are the boundaries of American identity and vision?

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One Response to “Netherland by Joseph O’Neill”

  1. Netherland by Joseph O’Neill | MemePosts Says:

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