Vuur en zijde
Passionate novel about a three-way relationship
All literary streams move in waves, both of action and reaction and of popularity and vilification. In the late seventies the literary magazine De Revisor gained a name for itself by opposing the then prevalent, anecdotal and often corny and immature trend in Dutch writing. The members of De Revisor group (Meijsing, Kellendonk, Matsier, Kooiman) were called ‘academic’ because of their rather formal narrative style and their vision of writing as a means of carrying out research by using the imagination.
The influence of De Revisor was considerable and is still noticeable in the work of diverse authors. In the meanwhile, however, Dutch literature is no longer characterized by an opposition between the adherents of ‘reality’ and those of ‘imagination’. It is now more accurate to speak of a synthesis between these two, a synthesis which can also be seen in the development of the Revisor authors themselves.
This briefly sketched out background is the probable explanation for the critics’ division over De beproeving and Vuur en zijde, Doeschka Meijsing’s two most recent novels, which are characterized by an increased readiness to put big emotions into heavy phrasing. Some reacted with astonishment and aversion (‘swollen’) while others were pleasantly surprised (‘suffering and on a grand scale’).
Vuur en zijde (the title comes from the work of the late Dutch expressionist poet Marsman) is about the model Didi who, together with her young son, has died in a car accident. Five years later, the artist Marthe (Didi’s lover) and the up-and-coming writer Max (her brother) meet each other in the South of France. It is the first time they’ve met since the accident and they think once more about Didi. Both realize how little their artistic talents helped when faced with the real drama of five years before. Max tried to set down the cut-off idyll which was his and Didi’s youth in a book but it has become a thriller which will gain him a public but no satisfaction. Marthe has tried to make a painting of Didi but has not succeeded in completing it.
The dramatic final chord in this novel of, on the one side, lost paradises and loves and, on the other, artists’ struggles, makes it absolutely clear that Meijsing views life as the poor opera she stages here with her great artistic talent and dedication. Between the ‘Fire’ in the title and the flames that lick over the concluding pages she has written a passionate book.