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Hylke Speerstra, Op klompen door de dessa. Indiegangers vertellen.

Hylke Speerstra, Op klompen door de dessa. Indiegangers vertellen. Amsterdam/Antwerpen: Atlas/Contact, 2015, 318 pp. ISBN 9789045028842. Price: EUR 22.00 (paperback).

Hylke Speerstra, Op klompen troch de dessa. Indiegongers fertelle. Gorredijk: Bornmeer, 2014, 349 pp. ISBN 9789056153359. Price: EUR 25.00 (hardback).

Born in 1936, Hylke Speerstra is a well-known and prolific author and journalist who publishes in Frisian as well as Dutch. Already as a teenager he was fascinated by the experiences of the Frisian boys who went to Indonesia, as volunteers or conscripts, and he witnessed for himself the departure and return of these young men, who fought for a lost cause. Many decades later, he renewed his latent interest. He interviewed 19 Frisian veterans, now all aged more than 85, frail gentlemen now, but still stamped by their experiences in the bloody and cruel guerrilla war of seventy years ago. His accounts of these meetings were published in 2014 in Frisian: Op klompen troch de dessa, which sold 6,000 copies in a few months--a remarkable feat for such a small audience. This year the book was published in a Dutch translation, Op klompen door de dessa, and has already gone into a second printing. Curiously, the Dutch edition does not mention its Frisian predecessor, and I cannot think of a convincing explanation for this.

It is not only the eventful years in Indonesia on which Speerstra focuses, but in great detail he discusses the background of the soldiers, who, from isolated villages and closed communities of strict religious denomination, reinforced through five years of German occupation, were catapulted into the tropical world of the Indies. Upon their return they had outgrown their countryside, and had great trouble in adjusting to 'normal life' again. Not a few of them would now be diagnosed as suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Their accounts are revealing and sometimes heart-breaking. Speerstra does not restrict himself to youngsters who were in active service in the Indies, but offers also the views of a conscientious objector and a conscript who went into hiding before his ship embarked. Speerstra also interviewed a New Guinea mariner, who fought in the epilogue of the decolonization conflict in 1961-1962. He gives special attention to the mutual atrocities committed, the often failing and sometimes corrupt intendance, and the taboo subject of sexual relations between soldiers and Indonesian women, which had serious consequences, including the spread of STIS (sexually transmitted infections) to thousands of soldiers. Well-written and involved, this is a late and worthy addition to veteran autobiographies.

DOI: 10.1163/22134379-17102022

Harry A. Poeze

KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies

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Title Annotation:Recent Dutch-language Publications
Author:Poeze, Harry A.
Publication:Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences of Southeast Asia and Oceania
Article Type:Book review
Date:Apr 1, 2015
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