A swirling cloud of stories
‘I try to take a new step in my development with each book,’ stated the author on the appearance of this novel. ‘Not only the subject, but also the style is completely different in each of my three novels. Mendels erfenis is written poetically. Het grote verlangen is an urban novel, like a road movie. In Babylon is epic, with a classical narrative tone, alternating with light passages.’ Different as the tone may be, there are constants in Möring’s work.
In his first novel he describes the experiences of a young Jew who sees himself as a scrap left over from a history that has come to an end. Het grote verlangen deals with a man who is trying to fill the gap created in his memory when his parents died in a car accident when he was eleven. He and his twin brother and sister have great difficulty forming relationships with others.
Nathan Hollander, the main character of In Babylon, Möring’s most ambitious novel to date, is not out of place in this company. Hollander, a sixty-year-old author of fairy tales, is the last descendent of an old Jewish family. It is the 1990s and Nathan and cousin Nina are snowed in on their way to the hunting lodge that Nathan has inherited from his Uncle Herman. A condition of the will is that Nathan is to write the story of Herman’s life. More dead than alive, Nathan and Nina finally reach the house only to find it transformed into a palace of ice. The biography becomes a family chronicle. The family’s forefather Chaim was an itinerant clockmaker in that part of Eastern Europe where Poland borders Lithuania. His nephew Magnus moved to the Netherlands and adopted the name Hollander in gratitude to his new country.
Nathan calls himself a story-believer. Möring has constructed this book like Brueghel’s Tower of Babel, a seemingly labyrinthine gothic castle of stories. Will Nathan, the descendant of a family which has constantly moved on or fled, never really arriving, find peace in his uncle’s house? The swirling cloud of stories come together at the end to provide the answer.