After friends, In the chronicle about his friendship with the Gerrit Jan Heijn kidnapper Ferdi Elsas, a new novel by Tim Krabbé will be published on Tuesday: inaccessibility. The story of a great love that does not materialize over the years.
It was a book that had to come, friends. For thirty years, Tim Krabbé had recorded his meetings with Gerrit Jan Heijn, the abductor and murderer Ferdi Elsas and his wife Els Hupkes, with whom he had a close and deep friendship. The latter in particular was embarrassing when the book was published, ahead of the documentary The Writer, the Murderer and the Woman.
Krabbé described that at the beginning of the friendship with Hupkes he had also shared a bed with her a few times when he was still married to the actress Liz Snoijink. The reactions focused on the ‘affair’ and on Krabbé having inherited an Elsas raincoat and actually wearing it. While his intention had been ‘Ferdi E.’ – He visited him 142 times in prison – to understand. A man of the same age, living conditions and interests who commits such excesses.
Elsas died in an accident in 2009, Hupkes died in 2016. “Ferdi wasn’t allowed to, but I started six years after his death. I thought: The material should not be left lying around, otherwise it would go with the garbage man after my death. There was a gesundes Volksempfinden. That the book should not exist. That I wasn’t allowed to wear that coat. I thought it was completely nonsensical.” laughing. “It’s also a very nice jacket. You mention it as a curiosity, and suddenly it’s all about that.”
What is it like after the occupation you meet friends working on writing another novel?
“With non-fiction you cannot bend events to your will, you are freer as a novelist. But with non-fiction, you have the certainty of the facts, too friends show reality. Whereas in fiction there can be uncertainty as to whether the material is good enough. With every novel I have a feeling along the way: this isn’t working, let me stop it. Although I’m now convinced that I can raise the book I’m working on to a certain level if I don’t let it hang.”
The title of your novel is a non-existent but significant word, inaccessibility. The two lovers in your novel can’t get each other through the decades anyway. Was that your starting point?
“I don’t start with abstractions, I start with stories. As the author Giel Labij says in my book: ‘What depth there is, must come naturally.’ I start by creating a nice surface and then a deeper layer automatically comes in. If you have been working on such a book for two years, you cannot remain blind to it. But there is a threat that you will write to it.”
“The most beautiful thing about inaccessibility is that now I see predictions that I did not put in with that intention, I am proud of it. Then I think: my mind has worked well, the unconscious organizing principle. Although I risk being mistaken for superficial with the attractive surface. My entire status in Dutch literature points to that. I never made a long list. Well, I haven’t attended in 25 years either. The cave is the last novel I have submitted.”
It sounds bitter.
“Yes, it’s always about the prices in interviews.”
I didn’t bring it up, you do it yourself.
laughing. “Granted. And of course I have other forms of success. My books sell well, are well reviewed, they have been translated and filmed. That the literary awards have passed me by is also a kind of curiosity. I have a kind of pride in the fact that I is the least praised Book Week author of all time.”
Let’s go back to the ‘beautiful surface’, the story. How did you come up with that?
“I won’t say too much about it because the reality behind the fiction never matters. But the background is my love from the last four years. We’ve known each other for thirty years and there have been gaps. This gave me the idea of a relationship , that always keeps coming back, but can’t be permanent because of the circumstances. With all the changes that the lovers go through over the years, in their personalities and their circumstances.”
Your book begins on The Strip in Las Vegas, where a meeting takes place between two people who don’t know how intertwined their lives are. Why Las Vegas?
“It’s deus ex machina, I needed Las Vegas in 2017 for the effect. I’ve been there myself three times, at very different times, 1972, 1984 and 1998. It’s a nonsense city, so far beyond the limit of the flamboyance that it is beautiful. It is beautiful with horror. With retired film director Mal, who comes to mourn his late wife Maxine, with whom he visited the casinos every year, I also share the dislike of Las Vegas. It is a of the strangest cities in the world.”
In the prologue, which takes place in Las Vegas, Mal, 78 years old and American, meets 73-year-old Lorette, originally Dutch. The sequel focuses on the Dutch writer Giel Labij, who seems to have played a role in both of their lives. Why did you choose this form?
“I wanted to use the ‘Kappie effect’. It is my own name for a fascination I had as a child and can still feel. I’ve said that before in interviews, but it never makes it into the text.”
“We lived with our family in a house of people, I can’t remember where, who read a different newspaper than we did. In it was the cartoon Cape by Martin Toonder. I fell right into it and wondered what had happened before. So in the shed I found a pile of old newspapers and it was all in there. The interpretation of a past from which I had seen the present. It still gives me the chills when I think about it.”
“And that’s how I use it again now inaccessibility. Mal sees Lorette at the casino from a distance and begins to wonder about her. A woman who has had love has known sorrows. I have elaborated on it in subsequent chapters as it happened to me as a boy in that barn. The reader’s haircut wishes are fully satisfied.”
Tim Krabbé is the author of bestsellers such as The golden egg, The rider, The cave and Martha Jacobs, which are also internationally successful. Several of his books have been made into films.