Get through the work day, and don’t let the work get to you. That’s the goal of everyone who labors, at least to some degree. And, of course, it’s impossible. Manual work breaks down your body, the service industry eats away your personhood. And in her crisp, quick new novel, Hanna Bervoets tells the story of one woman’s year spent in the latest temple to soul-sucking drudgery: a social media company’s content moderation facility. The question is begged (I admit, I wondered, too): what’s the worst thing you ever saw? And boy oh boy are there ever some eye-watering answers. But there’s fun here, too, particularly that old dirtbag pleasure of getting away with as much as you can on the clock – loafing, drinking, smoking dope, even screwing. We Had to Remove This Post is a very now working class novel that asks age-old questions of life under capitalism: what does our work do to us? How much of ourselves will we give away for money? The answers Bervoets finds are disquieting at best, and the longer you think about them (and you’re going to keep thinking about them, trust me), the more your skin crawls. I really like this book.— Chris Lee
WHAT IS “NORMAL”?
WHAT IS “RIGHT”?
AND WHO GETS TO DECIDE?
To be a content moderator is to see humanity at its worst—but Kayleigh needs money. So she takes a job working for a social media platform whose name she isn’t allowed to mention. Her task: review offensive videos and pictures, rants and conspiracy theories, and decide which need to be removed. It’s grueling work. Kayleigh and her colleagues spend all day watching horrors and hate on their screens, evaluating them with the platform’s ever-changing moderating guidelines. Yet Kayleigh is good at her job, and she finds in her colleagues a group of friends—even a new girlfriend—and for the first time in her life, her future seems bright.
But soon the job seems to change them all, shifting their worlds in alarming ways. How long before the moderators’ own senses of right and wrong begin to bend and flex?
From one of the most acclaimed Dutch writers of her generation, We Had to Remove This Post is a chilling, powerful, and urgent literary masterpiece about who or what determines our worldview, who sets the boundaries, and just how much a person can be asked to accept.
About the Author
HANNA BERVOETS is the author of seven novels in her home country of the Netherlands, and she has also written screenplays, plays, short stories, and essays. She is the recipient of the prestigious Frans Kellendonk Prize for her entire body of works. She was a resident at Art Omi: Writers at Ledig House, New York, and her fiction has been translated into German, French, and Turkish. She works and lives in Amsterdam with her girlfriend and two guinea pigs. We Had to Remove This Post is her first book to be translated into English.
“This novel gives us an acid glimpse into a new form of labor existing today, a job that extracts an immeasurable psychic toll. Fascinating and disturbing.” — Ling Ma, author of Severance
“We Had To Remove This Post is one of the most fascinating books I've read in years. Hanna Bervoets has created an astonishing and compelling cast of characters, drawn together through circumstance, separated by the same. The novel is fast-paced and thrilling, violent and nightmarish and grief-stricken, but also tender and wildly moving. A brilliant peek behind the curtains at what happens when we put our trust in social media. Believe me when I say you've never read anything like it." — Kristen Arnett, New York Times-bestselling author of Mostly Dead Things and With Teeth
"The dank underside of social media, its cruelty and delusions, have become, our shared affliction. It needed an accomplished novelist to explore humanely the damage. Hanna Bervoets has richly obliged in this superbly poised, psychologically astute and subtle novel of mental unravelling. At its wonderful, hallucinatory climax, Kayleigh, the shattered protagonist, asks on our behalf the one true question, and the spellbound reader will usefully struggle for an answer." — Ian McEwan
“Powerful, discussable, and a harbinger of a voice-in-translation to watch.” — Booklist (starred review)
“Scathing, darkly humorous exploration of the impact of VR, IRL… Bervoets just gets it. This is, unironically, a novel for our time.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Rarely does this novel read like correspondence. The prose is too fine, the settings too detailed, the pacing exquisite." — New York Journal of Books