An unexpected message from above
In his second novel, Hemelval (Fall from Heaven), Arjan Visser transports the reader to the world of the pigeon fancier. While still a young boy, Lode Bast becomes a fanatical pigeon-lover when he takes care of a wounded pigeon which lands in his garden; in fact it seems he was born ‘with a pigeon in his heart’.
Lode is a small, timid boy who grows up in a strict Puritan environment with a ‘father who won’t talk and a mother who won’t shut up’. Nevertheless, his father is all too pleased to tuck him in at nights and give him a kiss that lasts just a little too long. When his father dies - this later turns out to be suicide - Lode becomes even more of an outsider at school. Kip, one of his few friends, takes him to the local pigeon club where he finally finds honour, respect and friendship. His pigeons ‘elevate him, make him bigger’.
Geesje, the check-out girl at the supermarket, seems an ideal marriage partner as well as being someone with a feel for pigeons. Their marriage, however, turns into a drama. Just how mistaken Lode actually was is shown explicitly in the second part of Hemelval, written from Geesje’s point of view. To her, Lode should have meant salvation from a dead-end existence, full of guilt and sin.
When her little man turns out not to be able to pray, she looks for salvation elsewhere; until she receives an unexpected message from above… Even in his first book, De laatste dagen (The Last Days), Visser showed himself to be a discerning chronicler of pallid lives subjected to higher powers. In Hemelval, he once again tells a story of lonely souls who are determined to find happiness here on earth.
Visser’s precise literary style, the loaded pace of his narration, and his light irony give this human drama its explosive charge.