Tomorrow Pamplona is about a boxer, Danny, who is on the run after what appears to be his last fight. He receives a lift from Robert, who is on his way to Pamplona, to run with the bulls. While we follow Robert and Danny on their road trip to Pamplona, through flashbacks, the reader slowly discovers what made Danny run.
This is the thing about Peirene Press books: they promise to give you a whole story in just over a hundred pages (granted, this particular book is a little longer) and they always deliver. But this also means that there are twists and turns in these books, or in this case, a true punch in the gut, that has you wondering how to talk about them without giving anything away. Yes, this story packs a punch as it was once said by the publisher. It had me reeling. Throughout the book you feel, somehow, that this might be what is coming, but you don’t want to believe it – at least I didn’t. And then when, in the end, you find out that your worst fears were right somehow, you are left to wonder just what to think, how to judge, if you even should..
When Meike and I first got into contact, she told me that Peirene Press would be publishing a Dutch book in 2011. And I thought it was so nice of her to comment on where I was from, and yet I did not really know what to say, since I so often proclaimed that Dutch literature isn’t for me. And then part of the publicity for the book was that it had two great sex scenes in under 200 pages. And I admit, I became a little more doubtful of whether this was the book for me. But, I was wrong to doubt. The sex scenes didn’t bother me and the story is a great one, that is, more importantly, told in a superb manner.
The style of the book is really what made me enjoy Tomorrow Pamplona so much. The narrative has an uncommon flow to it. The writing is fast paced, and yet it allows you room to breathe. And once Danny and Robert are in Pamplona, time almost seems to stop. It made me want to push time on, somehow, push the characters a little too. And that is the moment I realised that Van Mersbergen succeeded, since he engaged me, so much so that I wanted to help the characters, do something for them, help them make a decision whether they should run or face what is coming for them. And it is that very fact, the fact that I cared, which made the ending all the more intense and confusing.
Tomorrow Pamplona is a very urgent read. It hides so much anger and frustration just below the surface that at times it scared me a little. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Really, it is one of the true strengths of the book.
What this book showed me is that I can appreciate Dutch literature, even the more fast-paced kind. The kind I used to be doubtful about before, but now feel really excited about. And that is saying something. Jan van Mersbergen proved how wrong I was, scorning Dutch literature all these years. There, I have admitted I was wrong.
I received a review copy of this book from the wonderful Peirene Press