On the Atlantic‘s Web site, Katie Bacon chats with Joseph O’Neill, the
Dutch-born Irish-born, Dutch-raised author of Netherland, a novel that’s about (among other things) cricket and post-9/11 New York:
I think a lot of people here felt a similar passivity about the war, as if they were waiting for someone to tell them how they should think about it. So in a way Hans [the novel’s protagonist] wasn’t so different from a lot of Americans at the time.
Exactly, he wasn’t. He places his trust in the powers that be. But he confesses, in a way, that he doesn’t really care—which I think is not necessarily typical of most Americans. He’s too depressed and wrapped up in a private circuit of misery. To the degree that he does reflect America’s reaction, he’s not equipped to think politically about the world. It’s very sad to say that, after having lived ten years in America, it increasingly dawns on you how politically undereducated people in this country are. It’s a very dangerous thing, especially in combination with the power that the government has. I say this even though I’ve become anti-anti-American—one does when one starts to live here. I’ve become American; I just got naturalized a few months ago. I really do feel that Hans’s political limitations are reflective of limitations in American culture generally.