Just over a year ago, ‘My Father’s Hand’ appeared, in which Bart Chabot describes his childhood in a neat but dysfunctional family. Now his new novel, “Heart Rhythm,” on the same theme has been published and his next book in this series is already in the making. To stay in junkie or mining jargon, Chabot has hit a rich vein.
The current book leaves where he remained in his penultimate book: his alter ego Bart Chabot leaves the house to study Dutch in Leiden, but above all to live his own life, apart from his father. Chabot senior is the man we know from the previous book. A diplomat, but in dealing with his son far from diplomatic. Rearing by belitters seems to be his motto: “’Your mother and I, ‘my father began to finish the conversation, ‘are deep, deep in you disappointed, I can tell you that. Disillusioned. Take an example from your sister. It sticks the hands out of the sleeves and let them flutter. It comes somewhere. But you… do you know what it’s about you? You were nothing, you’re nothing, and you’ll never become a thing. It’s always cry-with-the-pet-on with you from the very beginning. And it will always stay that way.”
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The disrupted father-son relationship is the primal catastrophe in Chabot’s life and work. That became clear in his previous book, and what the current adds is the role that friendships have played in his life. It is through friendships that Chabot discovers what life he wants to live. Herman Brood draws him into the world of rock and roll. Other friends show him the way to literature and an existence as a performer.
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Chabot senior is repeatedly and fierce on those friends; their drinking and drug use, their dissoluble lives and their — in his eyes — abominated artistry. Junior doesn’t deny all those fake traits, but gives without hesitation prefer that life over his father’s intended, and with that every time deliberately chases him into the curtains. He requires his father only one form of acceptance: the unconditional one. He believes he is entitled to that as a son.
Persistent Irony Bart Chabot
As in Chabot’s other novels, ‘Heart Rhythm’ is impossible to determine where reality ends and fiction begins. The book is presented as a novel, but the described coincides completely with reality. Author Chabot and character Chabot are identical. In his distinctive flowery and persistent ironic tone, he recalls the theatre tours he did together with Ronald Giphart, Remco Campert, Jules Deelder and Martin Bril, among others.
There’s also a vulnerability of this novel. Chabot scatters with names and barely explains who it’s about, let alone these people or characters characterizes. He assumes that the reader knows who Jules Deelder, Joost Zwagerman, Cesar Zuiderwijk and the many others are who review the book. It is the question of whether this book remains for those who say nothing to those names, but that will certainly be a concern to Chabot. It’s about something else.
Chabot explicitly describes his friendships against a background of decay and death. Herman Brood lived himself to the buds and jumped to finish the Hilton hotel in Amsterdam. Martin Bril had a long and dislistening sick bed. With him, Bart Chabot feels the greatest relationship: controls drug abuse, a functioning family life, a similar talent. No wonder in those parts of the book the demons of Chabot are closest to the surface, with its own mortality at number one. There is evidence that he has an above-average predisposition to that. And as he gets more friends survive, Chabot grows the urge to capture what it was like. What it was like to be friends with Herman Brood and Martin Bril and all the others. It’s friendship literature what Chabot is doing here. And it’s not bad.
Bart Chabot, “Heart Rhythm.” Publisher: The Busy Bee. Price: 24,99€. More information: www.debezigebij.nl
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