notes on dutch literature

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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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The Angel Maker

In Review on October 29, 2012 at 1:09 AM

A fews ago I read The Angel Maker by Belgium author Stefan Brijs. A complex novel flavored with magic realism, exploring a world of science, science pushed too far. Stefan Brijs deservedly won the Golden Owl from the Royal Academy for Dutch Language and Literature in 2006 with this novel.

Rumors of all sorts precede Dr. Victor Hoppe’s return to his childhood home in the Belgian hamlet of Wolfheim. But nothing could have prepared the villagers for the three identical infant sons who accompany him. Those who’ve managed to steal a look at the brothers have seen that the boys all boast their father’s carroty red hair—and his disfiguring cleft palate. The doctor does little to ingratiate himself with the townspeople until the chance rescue of a choking toddler and his ability to cure the local priest’s stomach ailment move the villagers to accept him as an upstanding member of the community. It isn’t until Victor hires Charlotte Maenhout, a retired schoolteacher, to care for the motherless boys that the truth about them—and the good doctor—slowly begins to emerge.

The Angel Maker is a gripping page-turner, a terrifying tale of one man’s mania and scientific hubris will linger in the imagination long after the book is finished. See reviews:

Los Angeles Times / The Independent / A Common Reader

The Angel Maker by Stefan Brijs

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