August 19, 2022


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Gerbrand Bakker: "Lonely Servant" - Depression is not human territory

Gerbrand Bakker: “Lonely Servant” – Depression is not human territory

Baker’s previous books have dealt with his depression, for example in “Jasper and His Servant”. Now the dog Jasper is dead, Packer is left behind. This explains the title of the new novel: “A servant alone.” Here the author himself writes about his depression – and writes against the distorted perception of illness.

Distinctive and attractive language

The diary-like report is listed in as chronological order as possible, originating in the deepest depression, but then revised. Describes how Packer survives literary events, takes breaks at the Eiffel or a trip with his friends and survives intestinal surgery.

Packer describes all this without any metaphors, in sober, sparse and catchy language. Those around them deny or misunderstand the disease, calling it “unpleasant”; The show’s stars themselves are experiencing attention-seeking depression – according to Packer, content and language distortions.

For him, depression is “no man’s land.” Alienation from oneself and all people. Homelessness, complete loneliness, stalking.

Over and over again daily life

Compared to classics or new editions writing about depression, the book feels a little shapeless: it offers no comedy like Kurt Cromer’s current bestselling Confession, and no rigor like Matt Haig’s amusing autobiography “Very Good Reasons To Stay” (2016) or William Styron. Memoirs, Night (1990).

Nor is it a non-fiction book as rich in studies and advice as Andrew Solomon’s (“Saturn’s Shadow”, 2001). Becker didn’t think about the audience, he was more than writing a self-assertion against illness.

Encourage those affected

The causes of Becker’s disease only hint at: loneliness? Marginalization like me? In the book, acute relapses are caused by new or discontinued medications and the stressful people around you. In any case, there is no traumatic childhood to report.

This makes the book similar to many depression memoirs: it flirts with “spiritual nudity”, but neither wants nor is able to provide complete memory antecedents at all.

Despite its weaknesses, the book can help those affected with encouragement: to be patient, accept illness, pay attention to the balance of strength and health, and be careful with medicine. The important CBT described by Packer himself is still superficial – alien to the wordsmith. However, mindfulness practices appear in descriptions of nature.

Ultimately, Packer finds his way out of internal exile through his “Love Map,” a map of all his relationships.