Flanders today, juli 2008
Trilby Kent

Anne Provoost could be described as the thinking adolescent’s Doris Lessing. Her books tackle such issues as religion, sexuality, xenophobia and social justice head-on. The breakout novel, Falling (1994) examined the seductive power of right-wing rhetoric; those that have followed – most of which are translated into English – have secured her reputation for asking uncomfortable questions with courage and clarity.

In the Shadow of the Ark (2006) is a literary reframing of the Flood applying a critical and imaginative eye to an event that has often been airbrushed to serve commercial tastes. She asked herself the question: what happened to those who weren’t among God’s chosen? Dissatisfied with the answer that they were necessary collateral damage, the Antwerp-based writer created a world in which their voices could be heard, dismissing the concept of a “chosen people” in order to linger over the stories of those who did not escape the rising waters.

Like an unexploded bomb, the young stowaway Re Jana is the invisible ninth person on board the Ark. Rescued by Noah’s son, Ham, she is a conscience for Noah’s crew and a fascinating study in faith. Provoost knows that people often look for the same things in literature as they do in religion. In the Shadow of the Ark suggests that as we continue to jostle for survival space in a rapidly shrinking world, the solution may not be to save a select few, but to build a bigger ship. Although widely recognized as a writer for young people, Provoost easily straddles the divide between adolescent and adult. Her annual letters to Hans Christian Andersen, as well as her essays – she recently released a tract on atheism – are more likely to appeal to older readers.