Writer, research journalist.
Chris De Stoop studied German philology and communication sciences at the KU Leuven. He works for the Flemish weekly Knack, focusing on articles about social problems at home and abroad. In 1992 he made his literary debut with Ze zijn zo lief, meneer (They’re So Sweet, Sir), in which he addresses the international problem of trafficking in women. The book immediately became a bestseller and was reworked into a documentary by the BBC. Haal de was maar binnen (Just Bring the Laundry In, 1996), about the deportation of illegal immigrants in Europe, also had a huge impact. Parliamentary committees of inquiry were established in several countries that led to the dismantling of criminal networks and new political policies. Ik ben makelaar in hasj (I’m a Hash Agent, 1998), about the international drugs trade, was awarded the Dutch-language Golden Owl Reader’s Prize. In his recent and also most personal book Dit is mijn hof (This is My Farm, 2015), he considers the disastrous effects of political and economic policies on small-scale family farms. This book received the Flemish independent bookshops prize in 2016. His work has already been translated into ten languages.
This is My Farm
Fischer Verlag, 2016
Translated by Birgit Erdmann
Original title: Dit is mijn hof (De Bezige Bij, 2015)
The Hedwige Polder, the most famous stretch of reclaimed land in the Belgian lowlands, is to be flooded again no matter what. It has become symbolic of old farmland forced to make way for new nature reserves. Nothing could touch the local population more deeply.
Chris de Stoop, himself a farmer’s son from the area, returns to his parents’ farm, which is suddenly unoccupied. While running the farm, he looks at the changed landscape around him. He is the kind of person who can go into raptures over a comely cow, or wax lyrical about a freshly ploughed field. He looks back at the farming life that made the land what it has been for a thousand years.
The disappearance of the farmer is a Europe-wide phenomenon, but nowhere is it as distressing as it is here. De Stoop watches the bulldozers advance, demolishing centuries-old farmhouses to create ‘new nature’ as compensation for the expansion of industry.
An impressive book about the social drama of farmers up against the wall. Perhaps the most personal book from the rich oeuvre of the leading investigative journalist.