Always the Woman
A perfectly composed structure
“Woman is ever fickle and changeable? wrote Virgil in the Aeneid, and Meijsing uses this quote as a thread running through what he calls his ‘double-decker’. In the first part, Veranderlijk en wisselvallig (‘Fickle and Changeable’), he describes how the hero succumbs to melancholy when the writers’ collective breaks up after finishing their trilogy (!), how he cheats on his pregnant wife five times, and how he finally brings his young daughter to an Italian cloister school.
This second part is the ethical counter to the aesthetic first volume: here the love of one woman, confined to the background in the first part, is a central theme. The author recalls memories of times gone by (she has left him and their daughter) with a deep all-embracing melancholy: “Marriage or living together, both guarantee the end of love?, he sighs.
The love of his life in the background turns out to be Eefje Wijnberg. A dramatic ode is dedicated to her: the author’s attempt to turn his sorrow into literature, into immortal art. The story of Erik (the hero’s name in this reflection) and Eefje’s relationship is imbedded in a wonderful description of the present in which Erik and his daughter Chiara drive to the station in Pisa to meet Laura, possibly the new love of his life. That is the only way to stop mourning for the previous one. But whether Laura does become his new girlfriend we are not told. Once again the story is about the events that led up to the present. Eefje: beautiful, vivacious, jealous, unfaithful, slovenly and untouched by the melancholic introspection to which Erik is prone whenever he retreats into his books or is forced to play the (far from chivalrous) role of househusband while she goes out on the town. ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’, readers of Veranderlijk en wisselvallig will think, but as is clear from the earlier quotation Erik does not agree: nothing is more doomed to fail than a man and a woman who love each other living under the same roof. The platonic ideals embraced and expressed by the hero in vibrant language do little to heal his disappointment about the failure of his relationship. I do not know whether Meijsing actually meant it that way, but his statement that if you want to be happy it is better not to fall in love seems a bit frayed at the edges when you read what led him to this conclusion. “I would rather be alone?, he says on the last page. It is not convincing, but that is what makes Altijd de vrouw such a human book.