notes on dutch literature

A Posthumous Confession

In Masters on November 25, 2012 at 2:10 PM

Marcellus Emants

Marcellus Emants (1848–1923) was a Dutch poet, novelist, and playwriter. After coming into a substantial inheritance at the age of twenty-three following the death of his father, he threw over his law studies and dedicated his life to travel and literature. Emants had little contact with his contemporaries, and published his first poems and plays in two literary magazines he co-founded while still at the University of Leiden. He also founded a theater company, where many of his plays—productions that he directed and acted in as well—were performed.

Termeer, the narrator of A Posthumous Confession, is a twisted man and a troubled one. The emotionally stunted son of a cold, forbidding, and hypocritical father, Termeer has only succeeded in living up to his parents’ low expectations when, to his own and others’ astonishment, he finds himself wooing a beautiful and gifted woman—a woman whose love he wins. But instead of finding happiness in marriage, Termeer discovers it to be a new source of self-hatred, hatred that he turns upon his wife and child. And when he becomes caught up in an affair with a woman as demanding as his own self-loathing, he is driven to murder.

What is the self, and how does it evade or come to terms with itself? What can make it go permanently, lethally wrong? Marcellus Emants’s grueling and gripping novel—a late-nineteenth-century tour de force of psychological penetration—is a lacerating exposition of the logic of identity that looks backward to Dostoyevsky, forward to Simenon, and beyond to the confessional literature, whether fiction or fact, of our own day.

A Posthumous Confession by Marcellus Emants is translated by J. M. Coetzee
More info:  New York Review Books

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