notes on dutch literature

Posts Tagged ‘The Dinner’

Must read in 2014

In Pick of the Week on January 26, 2014 at 4:42 PM


Huffinton Post selected Summer House With Swimming Pool by Herman Koch as one of the 30 books you need to read in 2014.
Koch, the author of The Dinner brings us another insightful-sounding story. This one is about a botched medical procedure, performed by Marc “doctor to the stars” Schlosser, and resulting in the death of actor Ralph Meier. The pair and their families had spent the previous summer together near the Mediterranean – that’s when things started going wrong.


Entertainment for the Middle Classes?

In Interviews on November 28, 2012 at 6:00 PM

English PEN
Over a million copies sold, multiple translations, a stage adaptation – does Herman Koch’s The Dinner show us a new way for Dutch literature? Michele Hutchison investigates for PEN Atlas

Not long after I’d moved to Amsterdam and become interested in Dutch literature, I was confronted with an exotic word: straatrumoer. Literally, ‘the sound from the street’. I learned that, in the 1980s, an academic called Ton Anbeek, who’d spent time in the States, had caused ripples in the literary world by suggesting that contemporary Dutch literature needed a lot more of it. Anbeek had compared recent American fiction with Dutch and came to the conclusion that Dutch fiction contained too little political engagement and too much navel-gazing. Novelists should work harder to reflect and comment on social reality, presumably as Don Delillo and Thomas Pynchon did.

Anbeek was lucky, just then a new generation of young writers like Joost Zwagerman, Arnon Grunberg, Ronald Giphart, and Hafid Bouzza came along, and the problem ostensibly was addressed. Contemporary social reality and politics – matters outside the protagonist’s psyche – gained a larger role in fiction. Psychological fiction moved towards faction. Nevertheless, public complaints against Dutch literature rumbled on. In 2006, then Prime Minister, JP Balkenende, wrote to eminent novelist Harry Mulisch lamenting the lack of social engagement in the arts. Where was the Grand Design? Vision? Ideals? Anbeek’s criticism had resurfaced and had even been added to the country’s political agenda!

Read the rest of this article on the website of English PEN

Interview Herman Koch

In Interviews on November 17, 2012 at 1:20 PM

Herman Koch

“What a tremendous book. I loved ever single gripping and strange thing about it,” commented M.J. Hyland on The Dinner; a novel about middle-class manners and parenting which has swept a tide of opinion before it.

Dutch actor and writer Herman Koch’s The Dinner is one of those zeitgeist-tapping book which has won both critical acclaim and prizes but also sold in stupendous quantities – over a million copies in Europe to date. Deborah Brooks interviewed Herman Koch on behalf of Bookoxygen.

It’s sadly the case that authors who sparkle in prose can sometimes be exceptionally dour in life. Herman Koch’s publicist had already emailed me to tell me: ‘Herman is great fun – you’ll like him,’  but I suspect that these words might have made me worry that he was anything but, had I not enjoyed the book so very much. The Dinner is certainly not light-hearted and only in a few places could it be described as ‘fun’, but it is darkly funny and extremely well observed, clearly the work of a writer who delights in detail and bringing to life characters who both amuse and appal.  My interview with Herman Koch was perforce done via phone during his brief UK visit and five minutes into the call I found myself not only enjoying our conversation immensely but also deciding that Herman Koch is indeed a man you would like to have dinner with, just not the dinner described in the book.

Read here the rest of Deborah Brooks’ interview with Herman Koch

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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