Wednesday, January 20, 2016

“Dangerous Obsessions” by Bob Van Laerhoven - Our Uniting Factor

Dangerous Obsessions by Bob Van Laerhoven
Release date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Anaphora Literary Press
Pages: 74
Buy:
Amazon(US) |  Amazon(CA) |  Amazon(UK)





Though human civilization has been developing over time as a whole, something constantly shifting, transforming, losing and creating, as individuals we find ourselves separated from countless others by the concept of time. Innumerable are the ones we'll never meet, and though our lives were certainly different, there are some concepts that unite all humans on this Earth, things particular to us as a species.

Perhaps one of the main traits setting us apart from the rest of the living organisms out there is our ability to experience love for others, to define what it is and have our actions guided by something so abstract. As most people know, all things can be perverted, and love is no exception; one day or another, virtually each one of us will come face-to-face with its more deranged and twisted forms... a burden that binds us all together.

In his book Dangerous Obsessions, Bob Van Laerhoven brings us five different stories taking place in different times and locations, all centred on the concept of love and how its twisted forms can affect us. First, we are presented with a story of love between Legion soldiers in an upturned 1950s Algeria. There is the story taking place in Chimbote, a Peruvian border town where love between a drunk and a trickster is budding in ugly ways. Another story looks at the very strange and unusual relationship between a Flemish mother and her black stepson which develops during the 1960s revolts in the Belgian Congo. We are made to visit a concentration camp in WWII, on where two gypsy siblings desperately try and cling to each other in hopes of comfort and survival. Finally, there is the peculiar relation developed between a Belgian war writer and a child soldier in 1990s Liberia.

As one can tell from the brief descriptions of these stories, they are of a more tragic and moving nature, and that in spite of the various moments of shining light. Each story is a lot more than just a tale; they are all profound studies of the human soul, the conditions of war and upheaval, the world we've created around us, and the double-edged sword known as love. Though this might seem like a rather grandiose ambition, to reflect on so many questions lacking concrete, once-and-for-all answers, but it ends up making for a captivating and fascinating read that sets itself apart from other books by just how much it makes you think.

When it comes to the writing itself, the pen that brought us Baudelaire's Revenge is still strong as ever, hindered in no way by the fact that it had to be translated. The stories all flow beautifully from one scene to the next, and Laerhoven really has a gift for using the specific words that will hook the reader in, the words that allow him to express his ideas to his full satisfaction. Be warned that there are some relatively graphic moments in there, though in my opinion they only serve to make the stories more memorable, the kind that will etch themselves into your mind for a long time to come.

All things considered, Dangerous Obsessions is a different kind of book from what you'd expect to find amongst today's vampires and werewolves; it is a philosophical exploration of the human condition, a confrontation with the darkest corners of our minds. I highly recommend this moving and gripping collection of stories to anyone seeking to be moved by something truly thought-provoking.

Bob van Laerhoven


Personal site

Bob van Laerhoven is a Flemish author whose 30+ novels have been published in Belgium, France, Canada and The Netherlands. His 2007 novel Baudelaire's Revenge was the winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for the best crime novel of the year.

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