Today’s guest blogger is Bob van Laerhoven. Bob is sharing with us a ‘conversation’ he had while riding his horse, Archimeda. Ideas for stories, even what types of stories we like to write, can appear from out nowhere or in Bob’s case while out riding.
– Listen, Master, listen…
– Archimeda, for the thousand time, don’t call me Master.
– Okay, Bossssss….But li-
– Don’t call me boss either. I’m your caretaker, your companion, your best friend. In short: I’m a frail human on your mighty horseback.
– Got it, Bobbbbb….Do you have frail ears too?
– Are we getting a bit arrogant after the “mighty horseback”, Archimeda? Mmmm?
– Ihhhhhhiiiiiiii…..Funny human….Please, listen carefully, Bobbbb… Don’t you hear the lovely song of the trees in this wood? They’re singing for us…
– I only hear the wind rustling through thousands of leaves, you hairy, poetic soul…
– Don’t you see the trees looking at us with their ancient, wise, and benevolent eyes either?
– I only see sunrays playing with leaves, you equine shaman.
– Bob…I think I know why you don’t hear and see what I do…
– If you’re implying that I’m drunk, you’re dead wrong. I would never hop on your back drunk. I love and respect you way too much for that.
– My ears stand to attention when you say such nice things….But I can feel that you’re blind and deaf to beauty today because your heart is sad.
– Archimeda….Such profound wisdom coming from your grass-guzzling mouth….I’m amazed.
– We horses feel things humans often can’t.
– So true, my four-footed witch. I’m sad because yesterday I received the first copies of “Return to Hiroshima”, my new book.
– Book? Ah, You mean those stories you write on the remnants of dead trees? Humans have such strange ways… Is it a story about love, courage, friendship, the beauty of the rainbow, and the soul of the herd?
– Sadly enough, “Return to Hiroshima” is about something very different: the cruel suffering mankind brings about with its wars.
– Pfffrrrrrrr, I don’t want to hear that dark stuff.
– To be honest, I have enough of it also…
– Then why do you write about it?
– It wasn’t what I wanted when I started off as a writer. But Fate made me witness some of the evil humans inflict on each other in circumstances of war. Afterwards, I was so shocked that, for thirteen years, I kept travelling the globe, trying to scout the dark recesses of the human soul, to understand why we’re such a tragic species.
– Did you? Did you understand?
– With each book, I understood less…. Which made me more determined to look further, not realizing it had become an obsession…This morning, I opened “Return to Hiroshima” randomly. So much destruction on that one page I read. I leafed through the book… And didn’t find a single page without pain, hatred, greed, cruelty… Suddenly, I felt old and useless, and decided to stop writing….To give up after more than thirty years… Archimeda, I’m so tired…I feel now that my life is over and that I took the wrong path…
-Bob….Do you remember the first time in your life when you dreamed about becoming an author?
– No….I suppose I must’ve been very young and foolish…Maybe I wanted to create something of beauty….Ha!
– You were a sickly ten-year-old boy with weak lungs, suffering, in a snarling winter, a dangerous infection. Do you remember how you lay in bed for weeks, staring through the window at a dead tree in the middle of the pasture around your father’s farm?
– Archimeda, how do you-
– Do you remember how, after a few days, from the corner of your eyes, you began to see things on the frozen meadow outside?
– I had a high fever, I was a boy of nine, it was all fantasy and –
– And how you didn’t dare to tell anyone that they were creeping closer?
– For the love of God, how do you know all this, Archimeda?
– Do you remember how, when your fear was like an invisible someone strangling you, a big farm horse with a thick mane and furry feet came on the meadow, and trotted to your window? How you felt that it knew you were there in bed, alone and afraid, and had come to protect you? How it calmed and comforted you just by looking at you? How –
– How it gave me dreams of flying on its back into the clouds toward a warming light….Of riding through a beautiful forest on a sunny afternoon…Like we’re doing now, Archimeda…
– Yes….That sick and lonely boy swore that he would write a fairytale about that horse if he’d get better. He would write about how the horse heard the trees sing and saw their wise and forgiving eyes, and together, soul mates, they would take long and fantastic voyages….
– I never did wri-.
– No. You never did.
– Archimeda…Tell me, how did you know….
– I am Archimeda, but I’m also Equus.
– You mean…
– We horses are All in One. And we are patient. The moment was there, once. After all these years, it is here again. All you have to do is to seize it.
– I’m afraid, Archimeda.
– You were afraid before. And look where it has gotten you.
– Will I, after all the dark books I’ve written, be able to find a new and softer voice? Is it in me to write about the joy of loving other people and being like you?
– In other words, you’re afraid that you have lost your belief in the power of love.
– Well… I…
– If so, Master, just look in my eyes and you’ll see all the love you’ve been searching for all your life…It’s there, if you write about it, or not….
Bob van Laerhoven was born on August 8th 1953 in the sandy soil of Antwerp’s Kempen, a region in Flanders (Belgium),bordering to The Netherlands, where according to the cliché ‘pig-headed clodhoppers’ live. This perhaps explains why he started to write stories at a particularly young age. DEBUT Van Laerhoven made his debut as a novelist in 1985 with ” Night Game.” He quickly became known for his ‘un-Flemish’ style: he writes colorful, kaleidoscopic novels in which the fate of the individual is closely related to broad social transformations. His style slowly evolved in his later novels to embrace more personal themes while continuing to branch out into the world at large. International flair has become his trademark. AVID TRAVELLER Bob Van Laerhoven became a full-time author in 1990. The context of his stories isn’t invented behind his desk; rather it is rooted in personal experience. As a freelance travel writer, for example, he explored conflicts and trouble-spots across the globe from 1990 to 2004. Echoes of his experiences on the road also trickle through in his novels. Somalia, Liberia, Sudan, Gaza, Iran, Mozambique, Burundi, Lebanon, Iraq, Myanmar… to name but a few. MASS MURDERS During the Bosnian war, Van Laerhoven spent part of 1992 in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Three years later he was working for MSF – Doctors without frontiers – in the Bosnian city of Tuzla during the NATO bombings. At that moment the refugees arrived from the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. Van Laerhoven was the first writer from the Low Countries to be given the chance to speak to the refugees. His conversations resulted in a travel book: “ Srebrenica. Testimony to a Mass Murder.” The book denounces the rape and torture of the Muslim population of this Bosnian-Serbian enclave and is based on first-hand testimonies. He also concludes that mass murders took place, an idea that was questioned at the time but later proven accurate. Short bibliography
Bob Van Laerhoven published more than 35 books in Holland and Belgium. Some of his literary and cross-over noir work is published in French, English, German, Slovenian, Italian, Polish, and Russian. Three time finalist of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Mystery Novel of the Year with the novels “Djinn”, “The Finger of God,” and “Return to Hiroshima”; Winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for “Baudelaire’s Revenge,” which also won the USA Best Book Award 2014 in the category “mystery/suspense”. His collection of short stories “Dangerous Obsessions,” first published by The Anaphora Literary Press in the USA in 2015, was chosen as “best short story collection of 2015” by the San Diego Book Review. The collection is translated in Italian, (Brazilian) Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. “Return to Hiroshima”, his second novel in English, was published in April 2018 by Crime Wave Press. Also in 2018, the Anaphora Literary Press published “Heart Fever”, his second collection of short stories..
Check out Bob’s Web site at http://www.bobvanlaerhoven.be