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The Yellow House
I’ve now read the article in l’Intransigeant twice and I slam the newspaper onto the table; I want to discuss it further but there’s no one here to join in. Yes, two customers who never give me a second look and are now at a table drinking wine with the prostitutes. And that man who has also been eating on his own, but hates me. Joseph, then. He’s walking around; I call him and point out the article but he is busy and keeps his distance.
Outside the sun is still bright; inside, in the narrow café, it is dark. The air here has a certain chill. At the back is the bar, full of the glasses Joseph’s wife Marie polished this afternoon. She isn’t here now. Next to the bar is the low door to the kitchen. In the middle, on the wooden floor, a pool table. I look at the newspaper. The photo of the maison. A few days ago, when I was walking along there late in the evening, a group of people were standing in the street. Ordinary citizens of Arles, who ought to have long since been asleep, and a few girls and the patron. And only now, after I’ve read about what has happened, do I see what was written on their faces: the sinking sensation of a murder. All that blood and despair in their midst, and now they had to stand out in the cold, waiting until the gendarmes had finally resolved everything.
The newspaper article is not so much about the murder as it is about what happened afterwards: the Italian suspects, and how all the Italian seasonal workers have been driven out of the city and how the residents showed their aggressive side, and how peace has since been restored. Have I noticed any of this? I haven’t heard any rumours or seen any patrols; I haven’t heard anyone talking about it. I was painting the entire time. This is the first meal I’ve had in three days. I missed it and now I want to conjure it up again but I can’t manage to reconcile what little I saw – those faces outside, the scantily dressed girls, the flickering lights, the door with the gendarme on guard – with the description in the paper. Joseph then comes up to me, thank God, and I want to ask him to explain everything to me in minute detail – if anyone knows, it’s him. I’m already poking at the article with my finger but he doesn’t react immediately. He’s got something better in mind, I see it in the way he frowns. Joseph in his beige trousers and jacket, his summer suit. Why is he wearing that suit now? It looks even tighter on his sausage-like torso, and the worn patches are turning a shiny yellow. He’s going to involve me in the situation, one way or another.
‘You have to do something,’ Joseph says. He’s put his hand on my shoulder.
Do something? I don’t want to take his bait too soon. ‘It was delicious,’ I say, ‘the soup was delicious.’ His breath smells like carrots, potatoes, wine, thyme; he has just eaten some of that soup himself.
‘You have to do something, you have to go with those lads,’ Joseph says, ‘Benoît and Michel have to have someone else with them. There are still two more Italians, you have to go and get them. I would’ve gone myself, but does it look like I can leave now?’ He gestures around, as if the café is full of children. Now I notice the two men standing by the door; they seem to be conferring and occasionally cast darting glances across to either side of the street.
Go and get them. They’ve chased all the Italians from the city. Except these two survivors.
‘They want to go now,’ Joseph says.
Of course I actually belong with them, the Italians, but I’m going to join the stronger side, strength in numbers. Without thinking, take the easy way out – so be it. I wouldn’t need anything else, I could even give up my painting. I’ve already stood up.
The Yellow House will be published on 2 March 2017. For more information and review copies please contact the publisher: firstname.lastname@example.org - +44 (0) 7792611929
Number of pages: 123
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What was said about The Yellow House‘It gives a well researched, sympathetic and realistic sense of the man Vincent.
it’s a great read, and is a must buy for those of you who love painters and artists, who love Van Gogh or ever wanted to know more about him, or those of you who like historical stories or mental illness narratives. Beautiful.’ – Hermione Flavia on her blog CravenWild
‘Blokhuis’ insights take us sympathetically into the mindset of marginalised people whose days are characterised by such things as dirt, disease and dead dogs that shock most of us and throw into sharp relief the moments of peace, tenderness and poetry.
In the case of van Gogh, the person he destroys is himself, lovingly recreated by Blokhuis.’ – Barbara Lewis on London Grip
‘Blokhuis has written in such an engaging and open manner, that you can't help but feel as if you are there beside van Gogh.
I would happily recommend this novel to fans of Vincent van Gogh and anyone looking for their next great read - you will LOVE this book!’ – A Bookish Way of Life
‘Even readers who are not a fan of the artist, will find much to recognise in an empathetic portrait of a driven man finding his talents leave him on the fringes of society, observing but not invited to join in. An elegantly written, convincing novel that’s as layered and multi-dimensional as a Van Gogh painting.’ – Emma Lee on her blog
‘The book succeeds in showing why the Vincents of this world unnerve us so much when we meet them, why they shouldn’t, and how cruel it is that they do.
It’s a story that will stay with you and enable you to see old favourite paintings in a new light.’ – Catherine Edmunds in Gold Dust