The Last Time
The difference between film and reality
In The Last Time the reader sees through the eyes of Yoko Debondt, who has survived a serious accident the previous year in which she lost her husband. Since then, Yoko has been in ‘a no-man’s land’, ‘a shadowy, grey waiting room’. She finds support in a good friend of the family, David, who is amiable, well mannered and loyal, but also a bit dull. One day, Yoko picks up a scruffy hitchhiker, Hichi, who’s completely different from David. She takes him home with her, feeds and clothes him and goes to bed with him, but neither he nor David, will do as a replacement for her dead husband.
Besides, Yoko has meanwhile embarked on another phase in life. As a young girl, she used to let men pick her up and take her to a hotel for casual sex. Now she returns to this way of life, although it is not always clear where her fantasy takes over from reality. In this sex without tenderness or caress, she fathoms the depths of her lust and libido, unencumbered by moral considerations or fear of risks.
The story takes place in Antwerp, where an unbearable stench is creeping across the city and making people physically ill. The cause is sought down the drains, where Yoko, too, is heading. This gives the book an allegorical perspective, as well as lending an extra dimension to the fantasies. Hemmerechts believes that norms and values forced on us by the film industry condition the world of our emotional experiences, and she strongly rejects, for example, the unreal sweetness of the movie Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain .
In all her books Kristien Hemmerechts seems to follow the fortunes of her characters with as much amazement as the reader himself. Her aim is penetrate reality, to find people’s concealed, most powerful emotions and deepest longings. This is without doubt one of her best novels.