Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Anne Provoost, Falling (1995, English translation by John Nieuwenbuizen 1997)

Anne Provoost’s novel Falling (1995, English translation by John Nieuwenbuizen 1997) seeks to explain the nature of, and warn Belgians about, the rise of neo-Nazism and Holocaust denial in the 1990s.  Despite the novel’s Belgian context, its explanations and warnings seem intended to be broadly relevant to all Western societies that are experiencing a rise of neo-Nazism. 

In Provoost’s Falling, a seemingly normal young man, Lucas, becomes caught up in a vortex of racist neo-Nazi violence that results in a building intended to be refugee hostel being fire-bombed, an innocent Arab boy being severely bashed, and a free-spirited, precocious and innocent Jewish girl being left severely maimed.  Provoost is particularly interested in how apparently normal youths can be attracted to neo-Nazi groups and led astray, despite the counsel of their own consciences. 

Provoost positions her readers to appreciate this process in three principal ways.  Firstly, she tells the story from the perspective of the young man Lucas, so her readers can explore his thoughts and feelings and examine the process by which he ends up on the wrong path.  Secondly, there is Provoost’s characterisation of the charismatic neo-Nazi leader Benoît.  Readers can observe the modes of manipulation he used to bring young men into a dangerous and destructive social movement.  Thirdly, Provoost provides the backstory to Lucas’ family and other characters during the Second World War.  This historical material, in combination with her treatment of more recent Belgian history in the 1990s, conveys the vulnerability of Belgium to the rise of Neo-Nazism during the late twentieth century.  Meanwhile, the characters in the novel represent historical or political types, while the incidents portrayed are meant to be emblematic of the Belgian experience of collaboration and resistance, or of support or opposition to Nazism or neo-Nazism. 

Provoost sees neo-Nazism as springing from its historical roots in the Nazi groups that collaborated during the Nazi-German occupation.  She also sees neo-Nazism as emerging due to the insidious exploitation of bored, naïve, unemployed young men who are recruited by sinister small-time demagogues.  Another precondition is the xenophobia and prejudice towards non-European immigrants and refugees, in particular the Arabs.  Provoost also believes that an essential precondition is the tendency of many Belgians to deny, or remain ignorant of, their history and the legacy of the collaboration of Belgians during the Nazi-German occupation and the Holocaust. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

© Mark Lopez 2021 All RIGHTS RESERVED

The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Falling meaning, Falling themes, Falling analysis, Falling notes