Monterosso mon amour
A woman blossoms as she searches for her lost childhood sweetheart
Carmen is married to a boring man, having sacrificed her own ambitions for his second-rate career. Once, she ran a feminist bookstore; now, she organises literary evenings for the local library. No longer the prettiest girl in the class, she is now just a childless librarian. Like Emma Bovary, Carmen reads novels that express the depth of human emotion in order to escape reality.
With these kinds of literary references, the author plays with the reader’s expectations. The title, for example, doesn’t refer to a disastrous moment in world history, but to a beautiful town in Italy where Carmen once had a holiday romance with Antonio. She never honoured her promise of coming back to visit him again.
Inspired by a reading by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer at her library, Carmen decides to go on vacation to Monterosso, a brief trip that turns into a longer stay due to the onset of the covid-19 pandemic. Her desire to ‘be plopped down into the world of a real novel and then finally make her own way’ comes true. The owner of the bed-and-breakfast where she’s staying claims to have found Antonio, and Carmen grows attached to an orphan boy named Oronzo. She doesn’t find Antonio, but she does find his son. Stranded in a seaside resort during the outbreak of a contagious disease, and confronted with misunderstandings and reality, her story reads like a more life-affirming Death in Venice.
On her flight back to the Netherlands, Carmen happens to be seated next to Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer, and she confides in him about her experiences in Monterosso. She tells him what an unremarkable life she’s had and how she wishes she could read a book about a life like hers. The author promises to write down her story, literally proving how seemingly small events are worth reading about.
Monterosso mon amour is the Netherlands’ Book Week Gift, a novella which readers receive free with the purchase of any book during Dutch Book Week. With this witty, meta-literary feel-good novella, Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer gives both his protagonist and lovers of literature a real gift.