‘Dit is wat ik je beloof’ (‘This I promise you’) by Rob van Essen

Van Essen’s work was suggested by several avid readers, including Marieke Ruijzenaars, who is an account manager at Van Ditmar book importers. Van Essen just won the prestigious Libris Prize for his latest novel, De goede zoon (The Good Son). Congratulations, Rob! 

After crashing his bike, the narrator gets help from a female rowing team, who later seem to be on a quest to fulfil his erotic fantasies, drawing the reader deeper into the story, which undergoes a superb transformation from erotica to drama to tragedy in the closing paragraphs.Only when I hit the ground did time continue – with a thud and a crack. Other sounds followed. A tinny voice, more voices, calling, the sound of sloshing water, the damp rustle of footsteps through grass, the muffled sound of socks on asphalt. I saw nothing, then blue sky and white clouds, and branches covered with fresh leaves as fine as down.
And then I saw their faces above, as if it were a single face that kept changing shape and hair colour, and eye colour, and voice, and place. Eyelashes, freckles, damp lips, white teeth, dark nostrils, strong arms exposed, fingertips on my skin. And on top of that, stronger still, the scent of sweat and excitement, warm and fresh at once, like seawater warmed by the sun, like bodies that have endured hard labour, like girls who have been rowing.

Published in De Revisor, 2-3, 2011. Full story available online in Dutch here