Monday, June 6, 2011

Tomorrow Pamplona–Jan Van Mersbergen

“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.

Some Reviews

“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.” –

de Volkskrant

“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

Laura Watkinson(translator)

Peirene Press

Location : Burgess Close, Minster, Kent CT12 4,


Unknown said...

Definitely a flm in the making (and the rights are apparently already sold!).

I've just received a German original version of one of the Peirene books, so I hope that one is as good :)

Amy said...

Glad to see you enjoyed this one, and great review. I agree, I can definitely see this as a film!

gina said...

"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 makes me want to read the book. Will have to save some fun money to order the book!!

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Tony, yes apparently rights are sold, but according to the author, at the moment there appears to be no rush with production.

Thanks Amy, & in the right hands could definitely be a film.

Hi Gina, glad you liked my take on the opening to this great little book, sorry about creating more expenditure, but it will be worth it.

Anonymous said...

I loved the fact it showed men as we are ,I think it would make a great film ,all the best stu

Mel u said...

This sounds like an interesting work-here in Manila we only care about PacMan!

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Stu,. yes it is nice to read a book purely from a male perspective, although personally I like to think I have other options than just violence :- )

Hi Mel,I read your blog often, you care about a lot more than pacman, unless it's an early version with the code written by Oe.