Incoming Fire

incoming-fireNo, Fabian de Groot is definitely not traumatized. He has served as a medic in the Dutch battalion which allowed itself to be outmanoeuvred when the Bosnian Serbs overran the enclave of Srebrenica in 1995 and killed more than seven thousand Bosnian Muslims. ‘If you cut a worm in half’, Fabian reasons, ‘only one end writhes – the end, that is, which has no brain. If the worm felt pain the brain-end would writhe.’ Fabian sees himself as someone who – after his return from Bosnia – has cut off the writhing, brainless part of himself. He has left the army, refuses to be a physician any more and lives as ‘a doctor without a patient, a soldier without a mission and a man without a history’ in a well-to-do Dutch suburb. His wife has left him to further her career, ‘offering’ him their ten year old daughter Allegra into the bargain. The girl, an aspiring footballer (who is goalkeeper in an all-boy team), and the jobless veteran (who is male ‘forward’ in an almost exclusively female environment) maintain a delicate balance with each other. Whenever that balance is in danger of being upset, Fabian performs an elaborate ritual with what he considers ‘the most real thing in his house, his neighborhood, his town’: a Makarov pistol he has smuggled home from Srebrenica.

When Fabian meets Minnie Zwamborn, mother of his daughter’s friend, cracks begin to emerge. Minnie, who is not in the least impressed by the past Fabian has renounced, threatens what he regards as his main goal in life: to be a disquieting, unintegrated presence, (a ‘living monument’), in a happy environment. Simply by liking him in an offhand and apparently absent-minded way, she fascinates as well as frightens him, and opens up the prospect of reintegration which he both desperately desires and vehemently rejects. Fabian’s fate is complicated by the local population, who seize upon his stance as a monument– principally the Volvo-driving, Bach-singing mothers who seem to crop up all over the place. For them, Fabian embodies an exotic reality and they provoke him to administer the homeopathic (or not so homeopathic) doses of brutality which enable them to continue living the lives they lead. With Minnie’s artless advances and the scheming from some of the other women, a cascade of hilarious and alarming events sets in which ultimately leads to a breathtaking, operatic apotheosis on the local refuse dump.