Geen nacht zonder
Like P.F. Thomése’s acclaimed bestseller Schaduwkind (Shadow Child), Aleid Truijens’ prose debut Geen nacht zonder (No Night Without) deals with a deeply emotional subject provided by real life. While Thomése’s book minutes his grief over the death of a newborn baby, Truijens tells the story of the medical treatment of her second child, Tom, a four yearold with leukaemia. Like Thomése, Truijens manages to avoid the pitfalls of melodrama and sentimentality. Her tone is lucid and down-to-earth, rendering the events accessible but no less poignant. Truijens writes short, yet meaningful sentences which give her story great emotional depth.
The title of the novel refers to a cuddly toy, Poefje, a threadbare yet well loved rabbit, despite its odour of vomit, snot, tears and medicine. Poefje unfailingly accompanied Tom to hospital, undergoing all the same treatments and examinations, including painful bone marrow punctures. He also provided comfort during Tom’s long, lonely nights in cheerless wards. Even though the rabbit receives a little less attention nowadays, Poefje remains a treasured toy and accordingly, Truijens devotes the entire first chapter to him.
Despite the fact that leukaemia is incurable, Tom’s treatment has apparently been successful, which is some relief to the reader. The story, however, remains heart-wrenching. Truijens gives a detailed account of the two difficult, frightful years she and her family struggled through – years in which life was completely disrupted and everything necessarily revolved around Tom.
She tells of good friends who suddenly avoided all contact and ignored them in the street, and about the painful, aggressive reactions of strangers to a small child who had become overweight and bald after Prednison treatments. She writes about her obsession with statistics which ultimately provide a mere semblance of security. Following in the footsteps of Susan Sontag, she discusses the false metaphors used in cases of incurable illness like ‘fight’, ‘struggle’ and ‘courage’. Whether a treatment is successful or not is pure chance, the same ungraspable chance which makes someone ill or not. It is not a matter of fighting – both illness and treatment have to be endured. Truijens’ observations and contemplations are poignant, sometimes merciless, but always to the point. This narrator was clearly motivated by a story that had to be told, its urgency obvious in every sentence.