Synopsis The countryside is in crisis. The shops are closing down in the villages, there is no school for miles around and, when they grow up, the few remaining children will escape to a less arduous life in the city. The village as we have known it for centuries must adapt to survive, but what will be lost in the process? In this book Geert Mak returns to the small Frisian village of his childhood, Jorwerd (pop.
330 and falling), and meets the present-day Jorwerders: a stubborn, stoic people for whom the flat, windswept landscape has been a source of livelihood for generations, but is now rarely more than a tourist attraction. He has tea with the butcher’s wife, drops in on the pub for a beer, and recounts the stirring story of Old Peet, a farmhand who was born, lived and died in Jorwerd. Such men are an extinct species in the new free-market Europe and, with his passing, the village he lived in moved a step along the road of terminal decline.
Jorwerd is not an isolated case. It is a paradigm for the changing face of the countryside everywhere in Europe. It has more in common with an English village than it has with the Dutch city of Amsterdam.
Is progress always a good thing, or is modernity destroying those social values that once underpinned all our lives? Despite its travails, in Jorwerd Mak discovers a neighbourliness and sense of community that no longer exist in urban life, while ancient families struggle to preserve their long-established modus vivendi in a world obsessed with money and profit.