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It Heidenskip

De Oerpolder, het boerenleven achter de dijken

Hylke Speerstra

Olympus, 2006

ISBN: 9789025429775

Speerstra’s major project, which he began in 2002, was to describe nineteenth-century life in It Heidenskip, a small village community southeast of the Frisian town of Workum. To this end, he held interviews with more than two hundred residents, former residents and others involved and studied (family) archives and old diaries, among other things. He supplemented the missing facts with fiction. The result was De oerpolder, which was presented to great interest on 8 June 2006 in It Heidenskip’s Hervormde Kerk.

In this book, Speerstra sketches the harsh rural life of the time, in which the often poverty-stricken farm workers and their children were almost entirely dependent on their farmers, who themselves had to endure the whims of the landowners from whom they leased their farms – while all could be affected by, for example, water disasters, cholera and livestock diseases. De oerpolder was marketed in a Dutch translation with the same title in 2007.

About his motives for writing De oerpolder and his working methods, Speerstra explained in the book’s epilogue: “It is a way of shaping a reality that is as close as possible to the real thing. At the same time, it is a search for the farmer’s child that I myself was and remain. It is the peculiar longing for the place where my ancestors grew up, tried to survive and hoped to find an existence; it is the yearning for a sphere of life that I loved, sometimes feared, that sometimes oppressed me, that I would eventually leave. Because the tough ground apparently asked too much and gave back too little. And because another world and future attracted me.”