The greater the love, the deeper the mourning. After her husband AFTh. van der Heijden wrote the novel ‘Tonio’ about their son who died in an accident, it is now Mirjam Rotenstreich’s turn to publish a book about him. She does it differently than he does, but she still makes a lot of sense to the reader.
Through Peter van Vlerken
It is in itself impressive that Mirjam Rotenstreich writes at all and is not discouraged by the brilliant talent of her husband AFTh. Van der Heijden. She previously published three novels. Her new book is about Tonio, about whom her husband published the bestseller of the same name.
The fact that she dares to write after her husband about their only son, who died in a traffic accident in their hometown of Amsterdam on May 20, 2010, is to be commended in advance for the same reason. With her book You are missing from me she steps out of her husband’s shadow for the first time and into the spotlight of publicity. While Van der Heijden, as an acclaimed requiem artist, used the novel form, Rotenstreich has opted for a collection of short, diary-like accounts of her ongoing mourning. She previously published those pieces on Facebook in an unpolished form.
Stop it! Get back to life!
Because I am a loyal follower of hers on that medium, I already read them. I did so with increasing admiration, but I must admit that I also sighed at times: Stop it! You’ve mourned long enough now! Get back to life! Try to get the most out of life! But if I have learned anything, through experience, it is that you should not and never enter into someone else’s grief. One person grieves briefly, the other for the rest of his or her life, the grieving process is so personal. Moreover, this is what life is like for Mirjam Rotenstreich after Tonio: writing!
The greater the love, the deeper the mourning.
When reading You are missing from me I occasionally thought of another writer, Carla Bogaards, of whom you have heard little in recent years. I don’t remember whether she wrote it or said it in an interview I once had with her, but she claimed that there are degrees of love and that nothing beats the love between mother and child. Although there are certainly many things to argue about, it almost sounds like a kind of general truth that the greater the love, the deeper the mourning. Mirjam Rotenstreich makes it more than clear and more than tangible for her readers how deep that mourning is, even so long after Tonio’s death.
Be careful not to sink into depression
Rotenstreich writes how, since the death of her son, she has found herself in an ‘in-between time’ and living in an ‘in-between world’, in which she must be careful not to sink into depression and become an ‘in-between person’, not dead, but certainly also not alive. Where many others would remain silent, realizing that there are no words, she again and again sinks the plumb line deep into her mind and then, no matter how difficult it is, expresses her grief.
However personal it is, her book is recommended to anyone who has dealt with the loss of a loved one. Not that her words will save you from the sadness, but they will help you understand the grief better.
Mirjam Rotenstreich, You are missing from me. Amsterdam: De Geus 2023, 305 pp., ISBN 9789044549584, hb., € 24.99.
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