“A boxer is running through the city. He heads down a street with tall buildings on either side, darts between parked cars, runs diagonally across a junction, down a bike path, crosses a bridge and follows the curve of the tram tracks.”
And now the killer line, “Anyone passing would think he was in training” but he’s not, his breathing is fragmented, out of control. He is wide eyed, being chased by the echoes of sentences shattered, haunted by words disconnected from their surrounding, all this accompanied by a bell incessantly ringing, ringing, sounds come at him distorted before clarifying to a simple command to stop! and with the only volition left to him he lashes out.
This is our introduction to Danny Clare, a professional boxer, who up to this point in time appeared to be reasonably successful, going places, but now he’s running, running from a love affair that has left him battered, running from some deed that will dog his every step. Into this tale comes Robert, who takes pity on this individual he sees soaked, standing at the side of the road. Robert is a family man on his annual pilgrimage to Pamplona, to take part in the encierro (Bull run) as a way of escape from his 9-5 routine, the dull lethargy of his suburban existence. This book has been described as a road movie & it’s easy to see it as such, the prose, the tight, short sentences that pull you forward like the engine of some muscle car, as we follow this strange pair, Danny, brooding and curt with a suppressed rage so immense you can feel it burning off the page, and Robert, the friendly, talkative family man who feels the need to risk it all, to chance his life in the bull run. As the car takes them ever onwards towards Pamplona, we also follow the route backwards, becoming aware of the chain of events that led to Danny running, to a moment so explosive and powerful, a climax shocking, but with an inevitability that mirrors the bulls and their stampede.
Before I go any further I need to say that this was a book given to me as a review copy by the nice people at Peirene press (thanks Meike & Maddy) which they had offered up for review on a couple of social network sites. After I had snatched their hands off & got the book, I suddenly realised that this could be a problem for The Parrish Lantern, “What happens if I don’t Like/Love it” as it says on my disclaimer that if I don’t like something, it doesn’t get mentioned. But thankfully on opening this book, the writing had me hooked, its spare, muscular sentences stripped of all unnecessary weight, had me front seat, smack bang in the middle of a road movie, following every twist & turn of the tale, a big grin on my face. Loving it.
At 189 pages this book packs in one hell of a tale, Madeline Clements from the Times Literary Supplement has described Peirene’ s books as "Two-hour books' to be devoured in a single sitting: literary cinema for those fatigued by film." Yet this would make a fantastic film, that tense air of claustrophobia, the dialogue between the two characters, the backdrop of the bull run would all add up to a cracking movie. But I’d be worried that a wonderful book, would get that “Hollywood” treatment, ruining the subtlety behind it’s facade.
“Sometimes they say a lot, these silent, strong men… Van Mersbergen uses short fragments to
narrate Danny and Ragna’s unhappy love affair… But love is not van Mersbergen’ s main interest,
he’s more concerned with how men can still manage to tell everything while remaining silent.” –
“In Tomorrow Pamplona Jan van Mersbergen shows what he is capable of. He beautifully
combines two story-lines… It is idiotic to say that you’ve discovered a writer with his fourth book,
but I can only be honest: Jan van Mersbergen was a discovery for me.” – Lidewijde Paris, Vrij
“Breath taking literature, urgent in its construction, silent over motives and longings, unrelentingly
oral about things over which there is nothing left to say.” – Leeuwarder Courant
“Tomorrow Pamplona lives up to its promises, an exciting, road movie of a story… Van Mersbergen
writes in a penetratingly poetic, forceful sort of prose, without falling into Rocky-esque romance or
weak Hemingway imitation. Clever.” – VPRO Gids
“The sensual and yet tight style makes Tomorrow Pamplona an intense reading experience. You
can feel something smouldering underneath those ordinary words, those short sentences: the
human incapacity of dealing with life, the choice between Robert’s running away and Danny’s
fights.” – De Morge
The key to the book is the secret of Danny's flight (and silence), but that's something you'll have to find out for yourself - and I highly recommend that you do. -Tony's Reading List
Jan Van Mersbergen
Location : Burgess Close, Minster, Kent CT12 4,