Thomas Heerma van Voss shows himself as a master of suggestions (●●●●)

How do stories begin? ‘Who – that’ [valt] It can rarely be traced unequivocally, according to the main character of “The Beginning”, the first story in Passengers / Residents by Thomas Herma van Voss (1990). He believes that finding a book of friends for the next door offers a solution. The lives of young people unfold in it, because the children in it reveal who they are on their way to becoming: how their life story begins. ‘Biggest dream’ That mom and dad are not deadSeven-year-old Anna writes succinctly. His colleague Yochem wants to become a professional soccer player. Laurentigi prefers to eatMar Rita Pizza† nice.

How do stories begin? in the chosen perspective. One person’s story is not another person’s story. Heerma van Voss excels in this new collection, just as in previous works such as the novel Circumstances (2020), in considering the consequences of the narrative perspectives he chooses. It leaves the image someone has of themselves (or of something that happened to them) slanting, unnoticed by their own telling. Their words raise suspicion in the reader, and not so much in themselves. His style is flexible and clear, while the rhythm is smooth. There is always more than there is. Given the smallest details, it provides information, you are taken in a vision almost without you noticing, with slight disturbances along the way, so that the main characters do not or rarely notice them. “You could say that, no, this story begins as follows: the girl returns to her country of origin with her mother and forgets the book of friends,” says the friendly hero in The Beginning. Poor girl, all the way back to Vietnam, with no tangible memory of her Dutch separation. In her own picture at the front of the book, neatly cut inside the pre-printed heart shape, “Smile [ze] shy’. That would be a “heartbreaker” later.

You are aligned with the narrator’s story. This girl is not only influential, but also the devotion with which he looks at the book of friends. or what? As the story progresses, your doubts creep in. The man was disturbed by the noise the girl made when she was still there. Another homeowner, however, was not affected. Was the noise there? As it turned out, the guy did not find the book of friends very often, but pushed it back. He cherishes him as his dearest possession. Reading gives him a “warm glow,” and he quickly knows the children’s answers by heart. It made my daily hour outside a lot more fun, and I usually just wandered around randomly, but with these kids I suddenly had a goal. I knew where to look as soon as I got close to school. I knew what these boys and girls were really thinking. My daily hour out? The guy who stares at the kids?

successful friend

How do the stories end? Confused in this case. You want to start from scratch, to be in control. How scary was it? What did you read exactly? The way Thomas Heerma van Voss directs your gaze is subtle, it keeps that prose, which deceives you at first, exciting until after the end. It sticks, precisely because it leaves a lot to be guessed at. These aren’t random, lifelike glimpses, like many short stories, they’re witty snippets that make maximum impact.

The wonderful title of the group, Passengers / ResidentsWell chosen. It seems to all the main characters in the six stories that, even if they take action, they actually stay where they are. They are locked in their narrow view of reality, for themselves. Sometimes he is out of envy, as in “Bowling in Philadelphia,” where the narrator compares his search to that of a friend who is more successful in his eyes. He lives wonderfully with his girlfriend Anna and is well on his way, as he points out during a visit to their hometown of Philadelphia. “Phil,” Anna said affectionately. “Jacob often forgets that, but everyone here calls the city Philly.” I read it smoothly at first, but is this optimization really so “loving”? Herma van Voss skillfully conceals hints of how the story will develop.

Memorial Day

“I Can Explain Everything” is the anecdotal title of another story. One day, a cheerful young man from the county brings a “borrowed bottle of sewage cleaner” to a “dear friend” in the capital. By convention, arranged as it should be, right? It’s May 4th. Memorial Day ends in Dam Square that day quite differently than expected. Here too, only a few things are explained between the lines.

And certainly not all. Although Heerma van Voss sheds more in his last well-chosen line:[…] Screaming and moaning, the crushing barrier that sounded like a rattling, people pushing each other aside, faces filled with panic without understanding what I should be afraid of, and for a moment, my head went completely silent, at last.

Silence is surely not the norm in the minds that Thomas Herma van Voss writes about, or sticking to an explanation, and trying to break through to point in one direction. The main characters are weak. Sometimes they think they are in charge. But sharing does not go smoothly, it is impossible to see through others, and certainly not through yourself. The son tries to understand who his mother is, and the filmmaker clings to her ambition, but they remain in a different position from what they would like and what you initially realized. Heerma van Voss cleverly integrates contemporary themes here and there, such as wokeness Or the corona pandemic, but the stories aren’t tied for long. Getting into trouble at all times, and of all ages.

Read also: The Super Power of Thomas Herma van Voss (●●●●)

hit control

Only in the last long story, titled New Life, does he falter. Here the construction suddenly shines through everything very clearly. Two brothers travel to a forbidden place where a missile is launched, but the narrator’s gaze, soon to become clear, focuses more on the past than the future. There are scores to be ironed out, such as their father’s recent death: his brother left him alone on his deathbed, wanting revenge. This is so heavy, there is not much to fill in this story compared to the rest of the stories.

For the rest, Heerma van Voss has amazing control over what he inflicts on the reader. He knows exactly what he’s doing to you. In the inescapable stories Passengers / Residents He proves himself a master of suggestion.

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