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Cruel Paradise

It wrede Paradys, Libbensferhalen fan Fryske folksferhuzers

Hylke Speerstra

Friese Pers, 2000

ISBN: 9789033011030

On the eve of the big Frisian reunion Simmer 2000, Speerstra published his book It wrede paradys, with which he would become widely known. In this book, he recorded the life stories of Dutch Frisians who, most of them due to poverty in the years after World War II, emigrated to countries such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, the United States and South Africa. Besides success stories, the book also featured the life histories of “people who traded the tragedy of the old country for the tragedy of the new”. Speerstra gave a picture not only of existence in the Friesland that the land movers left, but also of that in the countries where they built a new life, often with great difficulty.

Psychologist Douwe Draaisma wrote in The Academic Book Guide about the book and the land movers it features: “They have colourful stories to tell. A psychologist might add that Speerstra has benefited from the ‘reminiscence effect’: from around sixty or seventy, the very memories of events during adolescence seem to take on a new freshness. Many of the stories take on a special glow because they are told by people who are now older than the parents who had to let them go.”

Jabik Veenbaas also felt that some chapters read like “little psychological novellas”. Although a few critics felt that It cruel paradys contained predictable elements, the book is nevertheless considered an important work of documentary journalism. In 2000, it appeared in a Dutch translation under the title Het wrede paradijs: het levensverhaal van de emigrant. Both the Frisian and Dutch editions had sold about 30,000 copies each by April 2005. In the same year, an English translation was also released under the title Cruel Paradise. A second edition of Cruel Paradise was published in 2018.