Author: Arnold Jansen op de Haar
What is it all about?
Arnold Jansen op de Haar’s King of Tuzla, translated by Paul Vincent, is the story of Tijmen Klein Gildekamp and the effects of war upon the civilians in the former Yugoslavia. The book begins with the story of Galib Prolaz, who goes from civil servant to poor farmer as the war divides the people and breaks their spirits. It’s a brave and sad opener to a book which hits us with the reality of war. The story then switches to a UN convoy as it snakes its way across the war zone and introduces us to the young army captain, Tijmen.
As we follow Tijmen and the UN convoy into the heart of Bosnia and the conflict, we find he doesn’t quite fit into the army life. He is a loner who finds relationships, with both men and women awkward. He remembers his time at school and his inability to talk to girls and his time in the cadets where he forges just one friend. Tijmen wants to be a writer and admits to liking ice-skating and the ballet, but keeps these things to himself most of the time. When he visits his family he seems to lack any emotional connection to them and when alone he ends up having a disappointing encounter with a prostitute.
Tijmen joined the army to give himself a direction and to find himself. However, it’s obvious that it hasn’t made any difference and eventually he leaves, still lost. On the whole the book is quite well written, the narrative has quite eloquent qualities and makes it very easy to picture the characters and the war-ravaged former Yugoslavia. The last chapter of the book stands out as a curious and poetic end which left me a little lost, much like Tijmen himself.
More info: Holland Park Press