Everyone has a great love gone wrong. Someone you really should have been with, if only things had turned out a little bit differently. The summer love you left behind, the one woman who never became the mother of your child, the stranger with whom you danced intimately one night, the boy who bumped into you or like in the classic movie Citizen Kane: the girl you saw on the ferry.
Someone you feel secretly and intensely connected to, no matter how much time passes – it’s an irresistible romantic idea. Also a typical Tim Krabbé idea. The author’s work is full of kindred spirits who, unfortunately, lose sight of each other, but cannot let go of each other. The never redeemed childhood love between Egon and Marjoke The cave (1997). The button-breaking affection between two students Martin Jacobs (2007). And of course the distasteful disappearance of Saskia The golden egg (1984).
Krabbé’s classics, for example, are characterized by vain lust. The main character wants something (or someone), but at the same time is already aware that he will probably never get it. He is too timid, a fearful spectator of his own life, unable to act in time. So also in Krabbé’s new novel, Inaccessibility – yes, the theme has become a title.
Giel and Loretta see each other for the first time on the train – by chance they both got to the wrong place, the one to Gouda, where they shouldn’t be at all. And yet they come from there and go silently, full of anticipation, into the city, into a hotel. “They put their arms around each other. There was no awkwardness, nothing weird. There could be no awkward movements, in the process they decided how this was going to be.’
Later they meet again, and again and again, although sometimes there are years, oceans and other lovers between them. ‘You will see’, says Loretta, ‘people who have been on the train to Gouda together, they will never completely lose each other again.’
Krabbé thus transforms a chance encounter into what appears to be a life-long destiny. ‘It belonged. It had already been in the rotation of the earth.’ It is a clear choice on the part of the author, who does not start his novel in Las Vegas for nothing, a city built on the illusion that chance does not exist and that fate is paramount. The emphasis on fate creates tension in the novel, making it more than a story of two lovers who visit each other in a lifetime and let go again. Krabbé turns an ordinary event into something that’s how it should have been. A simple fact (they happened to be on the train together) turns into a story (they are made for each other). A fine literary intervention, because, look, coincidences are what they are, and therefore not very interesting.
It only gets exciting when something is very random, when there seems to be more to it, a bigger plan, a purpose. Then fate. Then suddenly something is at stake, also in this novel. Giel and Loretta are made for each other, but will they really get each other? At the same time, the focus on fate also puts Giel’s somewhat lame behavior in a different light. Is he a passive figure who lets love slip over and over again, or is he active, in fact resisting his fate? Can you even intervene in what fate has decided for you? And what is the whole preordained thing between Giel and Loretta really based on?
Incidentally, I now make this theory of destiny very explicit, i Inaccessibility there is no such thing. It remains – as befits a good novel – all undisputed, but it provides a literary undercurrent to the story that keeps the reader engrossed in a pleasant way.
Okay, all interesting, but is this novel just an old-fashioned tasty Krabbé with a high reading content? Yes it is. Not as emphatically chilling as saying The golden eggbut where the thrill is lacking, the romance makes up for it. Inaccessibility is undoubtedly Krabbé’s most romantic book. The love between Giel and Loretta feels sincere in every way, tender when it is described, with an eye for the small details, where great feelings are often expressed.
When Giel meets Loretta again after so many years, her backpack catches his attention: ‘That backpack, right next to him… a different backpack than back then. She had bought it at a time in her life he hadn’t known about. He imagined he had been told. Loretta Delaporte, you remember that one, right? She now lives in New York and she has a new backpack.’
Tim Krabbé: Inaccessibility. Prometheus; 218 pages; €22.99.