An Island in Time, By Geert Mak

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The Independent Culture

When Amsterdam-based writer Geert Mak first returned to Jorwert, the small Frisian village where he grew up, he came across a photograph of a farmer's yard taken in in 1931.

The yard's contents - haystack, outbuildings, tools - differed only slightly from those in a similar yard sketched by Rembrandt 300 years earlier.

According to Mak, Rembrandt's farmer could have worked on the Thirties farm without a hitch, while only 20 years later, both earlier farmers would have been stumped as to where to begin.

In this portrait of declining rural life, translated by Ann Kelland, Mak records the memories of the village's oldest inhabitants, including the story of Peet, a labourer who only ever left the village once, and touchingly popped his clogs in the curly cabbage patch.