Monday, December 10, 2012

The Consul General's Wife by Aliefka Bijlsma: Guest Post, Spotlight



The Choice of Setting – Rio
by Aliefka Bijlsma
Not many people know this, but Northern Brazil was Dutch for a while, in the seventeenth Century. It is one of the reasons I set my The Consul General’s Wife there. That aspect made it possible for me to deeply anchor my themes there. My interest in this part of Dutch history comes from having lived in those countries. My dad was a Dutch diplomat. I suppose you could say I was an extra on the stage of post-colonial power structures.

I was born in the Caribbean, lived in West Africa (Senegal and Ghana) and now live in Holland. And so I went through the trade triangle in reverse. Other reasons why I chose Brazil was that I had studied the history of the western hemisphere for my first novel, Sandblasted. I am well tuned into the social and cultural problems of that side of the world. Also, it is on the tail-side of the slave trade. We shipped so many Africans to that part of the world, enslaved them, dumped them there, and now what? The cultural identity of countries in the New World is still in development, its history is so short, only 500 years old.

There’s a freshness and exciting tension to that, it can still head so many directions. You can only hope the direction it heads is something new and wholesome, something the rest of the world can learn from. So I wanted to place my story on that side of the world, but in a big city, something gritty, steamy, physical, and urban. Rio!

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Genre – Contemporary Fiction
Rating – R
Melchior Steenbergen is leading an idyllic life. An elite member of Holland’s diplomatic corps, he is the Consul General in Rio, with a sweeping view of the Ipanema bay from his official residence, and a beautiful wife 20 years his junior. His trustworthy maid, Mercy, who is from Ghana and has followed him everywhere, attends to his every need. At 59, his time as a diplomat is winding down, but he expects to put one more feather in his cap: an ambassadorship. Paris, perhaps. Doesn’t he deserve it?
But Melchior’s glorious world is a façade, a house of cards, and sharp winds are starting to blow.
The Consul General’s Wife is the story of a man, elegant and dignified, unable to recognize his own flaws. Set against the mystical and unforgiving city of Rio, the novel is a comedy about a dying generation. And a tragedy about a man who has only a few days left to wake up.
Russell Shorto, author and contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine says: “The Consul General’s Wife is set in the rarified world of Dutch diplomats, but the expertly drawn characters who inhabit it represent a much broader spectrum of humanity. Urbane, worldly, world-weary, scheming: they seem ultimate creatures of our age. Then again, Aliefka Bijlsma’s rich novel calls to mind most of all the work of Graham Greene–which suggests that we are dealing with a category of human experience that is timeless.”
Aliefka Bijlsma is an author and a screenwriter. The Consul General's Wife is her second published novel. She was born in the Caribbean and spent her entire childhood moving around the world. Countries she lived in include Senegal, the Philippines, England, Ghana and the US. Therefore, her stories will often build on issues of identity and belonging in this global world. She currently lives in Amsterdam.

Read more about Aliefka on her website

More details about the author & the book
Connect with Aliefka Bijlsma on Twitter

Next Few Stops

11th December – Book Review at Books & More Books
12th December – Book Review at The Reading Cat


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