“The mad urge to explore, the impossible mission, the agony -  at times it’s
hard not to think of Joseph Conrad and the better parts of Apocalypse Now”
Dries Muis in Het Parool
The White Heron
In the Fall of 1907 a young Navy lieutenant leaves the Moluccas in the Dutch East Indies with a patrol boat bound for the southern coast of New Guinea. The aim of the expedition is to explore the recently acquired colony, and to establish good relations with the native Papuans. Instead of a peaceful and fertile colony, they discover a boundless and dark jungle swamp, inhabited by headhunters and cannibals. After a violent confrontation, the lieutenant is forced to flee into the mountains in the interior, accompanied only by his interpreter Rufus, who turns out to be a willful rogue. After a ghastly journey on foot, they reach a mountain valley inhabited by a tribe of Papuans who've never had contact with the outside world.
The White Heron is both a suspenseful novel of adventure and a penetrating portrait of two men who are not only tested to the limits of their physical ability, but also forced to survive in a world where their background, culture and experience don’t offer any guidance.
The White Heron is a historical novel with its own history. From the library of an uncle who was one of the last colonial administrators in Dutch New Guinea, I inherited the official report of the military exploration of the island between 1907 and 1915.  This report, with its exotic facts, its violence and the deep misunderstandings between the Dutch and the Papuans, was the germ of my novel. I traveled to the Indonesian province of Papua myself, and followed the trail of one of the earliest expeditions.