Bornholm Night-Ferry wades through inscrutable regions of a long distance relationship. Aidan Higgins is at turns wistful and heartbreaking as he chronicles this classic “end of an affair” novel.
The novel’s organizing device comes in letters between two lovers separated by a continent—one living in Ireland, the other in the Netherlands—as they flirt, cajole, complain, and desperately attempt to hold onto a brief romance. As a sweet and sad book, the novel explores well-tread ground. First published in 1983, it often recalls Annie Hall and Hopscotch in tone and aesthetic. The lovers pun and namedrop in a pseudo-gliglish patois. Larry Rivers is a central character.
Some more recent forays into the “end of an affair” genre might include Toussaint’s Making Love, or the films Nights and Weekends, Take This Waltz, and Blue Valentine. Like these films, Night-Ferry engages the many ways couples seek to keep romance alive, often resorting to pettiness and dishonesty. And despite the inevitable end, the novel is captivating and bittersweet.
The one manner in which the novel far outshines any of these films has to do with depth and thoughtfulness. The two lovers, one a novelist the other a poet, confront deep anxieties and lean on their correspondence as a fundamental means for thinking things through. Like Cortázar, the lovers debate Te Ching. But they also talk Fassbinder, Jung, and Proust. In short, the reader is privileged with really good conversation. And when it is all said, Bornholm Night-Ferry is a singular pleasure.