The Laws

Connie Palmen’s alter ego Marie Deniet, the central character of her debut novel, sets out in search of concepts such as identity and the origins of the story. Her quest is described through meetings with seven men who each have a specific form of knowledge and experience: an astrologer, an epileptic, a philosopher, a priest, a physicist, an artist and a psychiatrist.

Connie Palmen
Original title
De wetten

The relationship between pupil and mentor turns out to be ambiguous in the extreme. While the teachers pass on their knowledge to Marie, each assigning her a different role and a new identity in the stories they tell about the world, she causes them to undergo a metamorphosis in return.

In the guise of the biblical Eve, with whom she identifies, Marie makes off with their knowledge for use in her own story.

She appropriates material from the books she reads or from discussions at university.

The epileptic, for instance, is based on Hans Castorp in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain and the artist is derived from The Apology of Socrates by Plato. Marie is motivated by the temptations of forbidden knowledge and the search for hidden meanings.

Like all Palmen’s characters, she has an almost obsessive desire for knowledge that might help her to explain herself and the world, and indeed to convey her ideas. The Laws does not reveal the secret of literary creation, but as a novel it certainly comes close.

'The Laws' is a triumph not of meaning, but of mystery. This duality gives it a singularity that sweetens and embitters, that spices the tale with the promise of paradox and surprise. It is a bracing fictional debut.

The Independent
Connie Palmen
Connie Palmen (b. 1955) studied Dutch and philosophy. She shot to fame with her first novel 'De wetten' (The Laws, 1991).
Part ofFiction
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