Roses on Ice
There are reasons why Perla should voluntarily accept the status of an environmental activist. That she has never registered at the Registry Office comes as no surprise either. The anonymity this gives the protagonist of Rozen op ijs is familiar from other Monika van Paemel characters. Like her earlier work, this sizeable novel can be seen as a quest for identity.
In an aeroplane on the way to one of her environmental demonstrations, Perla considers her life. She tries to unearth her motives: ‘And that’s how the travelling started, as if she wanted to leave the past forever, refusing to ever drop anchor again, choosing to always visit and never settle.’
The associative way that Perla wanders through her life story is typical of Van Paemel’s style. Her story is held together by experiences and recollections that logically result from each other. Perla tries to define herself by charting her relations with others – her daughter, the grandparents she grew up with, her friends and lovers. Writing is a therapeutic activity for Van Paemel, whose novels are always closely linked to her autobiographical reality. She is thus closely related to Perla, who knows ‘that she had to chart the past like you drain a marsh, and that she would be free when she no longer had to forget in order to forgive’.
Van Paemel presents us with a gruesome analysis of male-female relationships. Sexuality already plays a major role at a young age; women must guard against becoming victims. If this does happen, it’s not the man who’s responsible but the woman herself. When discussing socio-political situations the author is committed but never simplistic. The paradox of the title illustrates Van Paemel’s dualistic way of thinking. She never rules out the possibility of the victim becoming the perpetrator and vice versa.