I have this friend back in Rotterdam whose near daily emails belong to the best Literature I have ever read. I keep encouraging him to write a novel. I have suggested ‘The back seat’ as a title.

He recently came to visit. After surviving a grueling drive with a Slovak lady her two kids and a friend of the lady’s son.

His descriptions of what took place on the back seat of the car were hilarious, enraging, sad and scary. His emails read like the literary death blow to a vapid generation.

The two children have been neglected by their father. The son is full of anger over this but is clueless as to his own emotions. He suffers and doesn’t know why he suffers. The mother has tried to compensate but to no avail. A fatherless son would have to be blessed with some unusual psychological insight to overcome that obstacle in life. The daughter might get through it relatively unscathed. Except that she will likely fall for a partner who will also neglect her.

The teenage kids were laden with candy. They refused the fruit offered by the mother. Along the way they only wanted to eat fastfood. The son bashed his mother because their house is not big enough and their car is not expensive enough. Fancy things have to fill the emotional void.

The mother must be bleeding inside but has learned to keep up a strong front. She works herself to the bone and now on her holiday she puts up with the unrelenting artillery barrage directed at her from the back seat. A boy taking out his anger on the one person who will allow herself to be used as a punching bag. A boy lashing his mum to keep up with the Joneses. The boy is a product of an ‘advertising holocaust’ to take a line from the must see movie Detachment. The boy is a victim who thinks he’s a know it all hero. The ideal product of our consumer society. Zero self-insight. And full of pain. Ready for the rat race.

Hurt people will try and hurt other people.

There have been massive advances in our society. Profound insight into human nature is but a click away and yet we have produced nitwits who think KFC is a temple. Nitwits who think they and they alone have unlocked the secrets of how to live a fulfilling life. Buy the right Audi or BMW model.

My friend arrives at our place entirely drained and visibly relieved to see people who will listen.

He talks to us about how he met the one and only love of his life. All the way back in 1986. Behind the iron curtain. The central and unassailable place she has in his life. It’s by far the most romantic story I have ever heard. I have never heard any man talk about a woman with such intensity. Their story is worthy of a movie. It has communism staggering to its death, it has bohemian days in Paris, the most exciting sex, a world full of quirky friends, tales of how they smuggled Croatian refugees over the border during the Yugoslavian wars, astonishing psychological insight into anyone he has met, etc.

When he leaves we feel privileged that we have seen this. Infinitely better than a Woody Allen movie, although similar in nature.

My friendship with him is one of the best things that have come out of my flight to Slovakia.

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