Arjan Visser

Fall from Heaven

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.

After only two novels, it is impossible to ignore Arjan Visser. His style is oppressive, his suffocating universe gives little reason for hope, but the watertight set-up leaves no choice but to be swept along in the evolution of these minor lives.

Abdelkader Benali

Lode Bast’s first pigeon fell with a gentle thud one summer afternoon onto the freshly scrubbed tiles behind his parents’ house. It landed next to a yellow tow truck which seemed, afterwards, to have been parked there deliberately. Lode knelt down next to the bird and looked up, as if mentally estimating the distance the animal had fallen. Two white clouds in the shape of smurf hats drifted by. A warm breeze caressed Lode’s forehead. Someone somewhere was mowing the lawn. The pigeon allowed itself to be picked up without protest. A pale grey layer of feathers covered its breast and wings, it wore a mother-of-pearl collar around its neck, and a dark executioner’s hood seemed to have been pulled over its head. Its eyes were red. It was only when Lode pressed it to his chest that he saw that one of its legs was attached to its body by no more than a single tendon, more like a thread. Lode took the tiny ring encircling the pigeon’s limp leg between his thumb and forefinger and read ‘h, sixty-eight, dash…’; he rotated it and suddenly felt something fall into his lap. The pigeon looked around unperturbed, as if it wasn’t the first time it had lost a body part.

Arjan Visser

Arjan Visser (b. 1961) earned journalistic renown through an interview series which has been running in the Trouw daily newspaper since 1998. Dutch people from different backgrounds, famous and unknown, are asked to respond to the themes of the Ten Commandments, which produces surprising…

lees meer


Hemelval (2006). Fiction, 239 pages.

Sample translation

English (PDF document)



Prinsengracht 911-915
NL - 1017 KD Amsterdam
Tel: +31 20 524 98 00
Fax: +31 20 627 68 51

[email protected]

lees meer