notes on dutch literature

The Dinner deserves its success

In Review on November 17, 2012 at 1:07 PM

The dinner - Herman Koch

The Dinner by Herman Koch. Translated by Sam Garrett, published by Atlantic; £12.99. To be published in America in February 12, 2013 by Hogarth; $24

It is almost unheard of for a Dutch novel to become an international bestseller, but Herman Koch’s The Dinner has done the trick. In the Netherlands this psychological thriller sold 400,000 copies in hardback alone, and has so far sold more than 1m copies worldwide. Despite a deceptively shaky narrative start, The Dinner deserves its success. Simon Kuper, Financial Times

Fine dining, at least in the West, is a drama in five acts. The arc moves from aperitif to digestif, from first course to dessert, the curtain rising with each unveiled plate. The five-course dinner is such a perfect theatrical setting in which to spy on unhappy families that it is surprising meals are not used more often by fiction writers and playwrights.

Herman Koch, a 58-year-old Dutch actor and comedian, has filled the gap with a novel that became an immediate bestseller when it was first published in the Netherlands in 2009. “The Dinner” has since sold more than 1m copies in 24 countries, from Norway to South Korea.

Mr Koch’s sixth novel is a psychological thriller about two Dutch families, each with a 15-year-old son. The boys have committed a horrifying act, which has been caught on camera. Grainy images of them cackling cruelly have been put up on YouTube. Despite a nationwide manhunt, the boys remain unidentified—by everyone except their parents.

Read the Economist review here.

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  1. I’ve heard really good things about this book. I will add it to my TBR pile!

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