'Pulling a Crocodile by the Tongue' by Saskia de Coster

RNW archive

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The young Flemish writer Saskia de Coster is considered one of the rising talents in Belgium. Her Radio Books contribution centers around a unsettling telephone call.


Saskia de Coster was born in 1976 and studied Germanic languages at Catholic University Leuven. But she says she began writing when she was just two years old. Her debut novel ‘Vrije Val’ (Freefall) was published when she was twenty four. After that, in quick succession, came ‘Jeuk’ ( Itch) and ‘Eeuwige roem’ (Eternal Glory) for which she was nominated for the prestigious BNG literary award. In 2009 she published her latest book ‘Dit is van Mij’ (This is Mine) as well as a graphic novel written with Nicolas Provost.

“I’m always on the look out for that one word that encapsulates everything,” explains de Coster. She says she writes not just to control her uneasiness about what's happening in the world but also because she feels that one of the strongest ways to make her point is through the power of words. She is currently a writer-in-residence at Ledig House in New York City.

Enigmatic wordplay
Her contribution to RadioBooks has the rather enigmatic title 'Pulling a Crocodile by the Tongue'. It's about a young woman, Emily who's just moved to a new house with her two dogs. She's having problems adapting to her new surroundings - even emptying her boxes is too much for her. Does a strange, meandering telephone conversation with a stranger calm her down or exacerbate her melancholy and her despair?

"It is the story of a girl who walked down the street with a plaster statue in her arms,' says the voice. 'She didn't notice that the statue lost  an arm on the corner of the street, and a few steps further on, a big toe… The girl walked on and on, until she was no longer carrying  a statue in her arms but only the ghost of a statue, but still she didn't give up, she just kept walking until she noticed that she herself had also lost her arms and legs along the way, and that she was nothing more than her own shadow."

'Pulling a Crocodile by the Tongue' by Saskia de Coster was translated by Michael O’Louglin. The story is read by Ginger Da Silva.

The series Radio Books is an initiative of Flemish-Dutch Huis de Buren in Brussels, in association with the Flemish radio broadcaster Klara and Radio Netherlands Worldwide.