notes on dutch literature

Literary provocateur

In Pick of the Week on November 18, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Jewish Messiah - Arnon Grunberg

Prolific Dutch novelist Arnon Grunberg was born in Amsterdam in 1971, lives and works in New York City. He was kicked out of school at seventeen and started his own publishing company, specializing in non-Aryan German literature, at the age of nineteen. His first novel, Blue Mondays, written at the age of twenty-three, became a bestseller in Europe, won the Anton Wachter Prize. His second novel, Silent Extras was similarly successful, and Phantom Pain, his third, won the Dutch AKO Prize. He won he Flemish Golden Owl Award for Tirza (2006). Writing under the name Marek van der Jagt, Grunberg published The History of My Baldness, which won him the Anton Wachter Prize for the second time, a prize for the best debut novel of the last two years. He is the only novelist in the history of this prize to have won it twice. Other work published under the pseudonym Van der Jagt are Gstaad 95-98 (2002), as well as the essay Monogaam (Monogamous, 2004). Grunberg also writes plays, essays and travel columns.

Donna Seaman, LA Times wrote about The Jewish Messiah (2008): Grunberg is a master of stealthy wit, land mine-like understatement, whiplash dialogue and lacerating social commentary. Every character is brought to excruciatingly vivid life in sharply etched if ludicrous scenes of menace, subterfuge, grotesque psychosis and diabolical cruelty. Each shrewdly constructed and unnerving encounter is designed to expose hypocrisy, guilt, pain, ignorance and unreason, the chemistry of inhumanity. While Grunberg’s absurdist parody is devilishly clever and robustly ironic, it is too grim and freighted for laugh-out-loud humor.

His latest novel, The Man Without Illness was recently published in the Netherlands. The novel is not yet available in translation, but an excerpt of The Man Without Illness can be found here.

Arnon Grunberg is one of the few writers whose most novels are available in English (translations by Sam Garrett and Arnold & Erica Pomerans) Blue Mondays (1997), Silent Extras (2001), Phantom Pain (2004), The Jewish Messiah (2008). For a complete overview of novels, stories and essays by Arnon Grunberg: www.arnongrunberg.com

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