Monday, 23 May 2011

Tomorrow Pamplona by Jan van Mersbergen

Bull Running
review by Maryom


Danny Clare, a boxer, is running away from something - first on foot, then hitching a lift and ending up travelling to Pamplona with Robert, a family man who for the one weekend a year wants to break free from his happy, ordered life.
Behind him lie an unfaithful lover, a career built on aggression and events that Danny doesn't want to face up to, but exactly what he's running away from doesn't become clear until he turns and faces up to what he's done.

Tomorrow Pamplona is the fifth in Peirene's series of modern translated short fiction and slightly longer than others. More importantly there's a different 'feel' to it. Despite being only 30 or so more pages, it reads and feels like a much longer book. The others have all been compelling, vivid, brief capturings of a moment in time, this feels like a slower unfolding of a tale. There seemed a rather dream like quality to the first half of the novel - roadsigns, towns and villages drifting past as the two men journey south - till they're brought back to reality by the bulls at Pamplona.
Tomorrow Pamplona is an exploration of the dark, aggressive aspects of personality that lurk beneath a seemingly pleasant exterior. Both men seem to only feel 'alive' in violent, threatening situations. When Danny stands stock-still and stares in the face of the charging bull, there's a sense of two instinctively violent, powerful minds opposing each other. I'm not sure that I sympathised very much with either of the main characters and that may have influenced my feelings about the book as a whole. It's not the most disturbing book I've read but there's a feeling of latent violence throughout that is more common in thrillers/whodunnits than in literary fiction.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - Peirene
Genre -
adult, translated fiction

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