Tineke Van der Eecken
(Wild Weeds Press)
I first met Tineke Van der Eecken in 2010, when she asked me to take a preliminary look at the fledgling manuscript that would eventually become Traverse. And last month, it gave me great pleasure to launch the book, and to celebrate Tineke’s long creative journey of hard work and perseverance that would, along the way, see the unpublished manuscript shortlisted for the 2016 City of Fremantle T.A.G. Hungerford Award. What I felt were the strengths of the manuscript in its earliest form shine through clearly still: an unusual subject matter, a strong evocation of place, and the warmth and honesty of the narrative voice.
Traverse is not Tineke’s first book; she has also published Cafe d’Afrique, a memoir about her experiences in running a coffee shop in Zambia. And her poetry and non-fiction have been widely published in Australia, Europe and the United Kingdom. Belgian-born, she now lives near Fremantle, Western Australia, and works in conflict resolution. She also makes jewellery inspired by her travels.
Here is the book’s blurb:
Tineke, her husband Dirk and their two children have moved many times to support his career as a geologist. As the family struggle to settle into their new home in England, Dirk is away for months, conducting surveys in Madagascar; while at home, he is mentally absent. When Tineke discovers his infidelity, her life can never be the same.
Determined to save her twelve-year marriage, she decides to accompany Dirk on his next geological expedition: a 350 kilometre trek through the unrelenting terrain of Madagascar.
Traverse is both a travel memoir that charts Tineke’s difficult and dangerous trek, and a forensic examination of the denouement of a fractured marriage. The landscape of Madagascar—in particular, the powerful Bemarivo River—brings her face-to-face with her own limitations and with demons from her past. By pushing through a physical feat of endurance and examining the emotional truth of her situation, Tineke is finally able to resolve her own and her husband’s future.
Over to Tineke…
2 things that inspired my book
1 Working through painful life experiences is at the centre of my story. It’s nothing new; it’s the tragedy of life. The trick was to turn this negative into a positive, something beautiful and worth sharing. My first book, Cafe d’Afrique, tells the story of a failed business venture in Africa but it’s also about friendship with Zambian people and with Zambia as a country. Traverse is the story of a marriage breakdown, on one hand, and about daring to be vulnerable, on the other.
2 The immediate inspiration for Traverse was the trip itself: trekking 350 kilometres on foot through four climate zones in a remote part of Northern Madagascar, one of the most beautiful and diverse countries in the world—both ecologically and culturally. During the trek, I would meet the woman my husband had fallen in love with and try to decide if our marriage could be rescued.
2 places connected with my book
1 Northern Madagascar—in particular, the area east of Tsinzarano—following the Bemarivo River towards its source in the mountains, and ending in Ambilobe. In this part of the world, you go from one place to another by walking.
2 Cotgrave, a small village in the Eastern Midlands in England. It is perched in an undulating landscape and connected to the other villages by ancient footpaths.
2 favourite Madagascan phrases
1 The question ‘Bis lanana?’—‘Where is the path?’—was commonly heard during the expedition. When you trek through an open landscape, you can see the path winding its way across the hills to the next village, ten or twenty kilometres away. It can take all day to reach that destination. There is something marvellous in arriving on foot in a village or town. You can never be anonymous. You know the others on the path, and they know you. The school you pass will have children chanting in French instead of their local language.
2 Expressed as a statement, ‘Bis lanana’ meant there was always a path, even if it had to be hacked through the forest. I see it as a metaphor for a modern marriage. There is always a path, a way to make things work or to make the best out of what is not working. But paths, like rivers, merge and separate. Our path followed the course of the river all the way to the source. There were many tributaries, unexpectedly creating white water, danger. Our focus, more and more, was on how to manoeuvre these crossings.