Thursday Afternoon: Three Thirty.
On the complex love of parents for children
Hemmerechts’ novels appear to emerge organically from her pen, never following a strict scheme but taking the reader on an intriguing psychological voyage of discovery. She owes her success in part to the familiarity of her characters, and not least a realistic and candid eroticism. With her consistent flow of publications Kristien Hemmerechts has built up an impressive literary oeuvre revealing an interesting and surprising perspective on human emotions.
Her latest novel, revolves around a banal accident. Every Thursday a typing teacher parks his van in the school playground and reads the paper while he waits for class to begin. But then disaster strikes: a twelve-year-old girl, Karen, gets run over as the teacher backs into his parking space. In the stories that follow of the people in Karen’s life, some whose role is incidental and others who are closely involved, the narrator constructs a constellation, a web of mutual entanglements in which the accident forms the centrepiece. Her mother wonders whether to tell her that she was conceived through artificial insemination, oblivious to the fact that she already knows this. Her apprehensive teacher is unable to cope. Earlier that afternoon, his friend, the architect, had caught her and her boyfriend Hassan in his open-top car as he came out of the baker’s shop. His second wife wants to reverse her sterilisation out of love for him. The typing teacher was thinking of asking the owner of the chip shop near the school on a date, but is still embroiled in a divorce in which he has lost custody of his son.
All the characters have their own story and are searching for emotional succour in a relationship with someone else. But security and invulnerability are never absolute. And so they never escape their uncertainties and their guilt, while their deepest desires are never fulfilled the way they want.
Peoples’ lives are improvised stories, Kristien Hemmerechts seems to be saying, like different versions of the same basic plot. To illustrate this, she lets Hassan, the locksmith’s son, tell some of the stories. He played a crucial role in the accident, but what that was is never clear. Like a latterday Sheherazade Hassan recreates the real world in his narratives and shows how people live on in the stories that are told about them.