Extract from ‘Phantom Pain’

‘I’m a natural for the royal family,’ said Robert G. Mehlman one evening. We were sitting on the patio of the Hotel Santa Caterina in Amalfi. It was unseasonably cold. He had on his blue coat. Peanut crumbs were clinging to his lips. He smelled different. Of cellars where there’s lots of dancing and no…

Should Be Both Comic and Painful

The Work of Arnon Grunberg On the final pages of Arnon Grunberg’s bizarre – cynical, but also very moving – novel Phantom Pain (Fantoompijn, 2000) the main character, writer-dreamer-swindler Robert Mehlman, writes in a letter to his son Harpo Saul Mehlman: ‘My relationship with your mother, also known as Princess Fairytale, has survived a great…

Extract from ‘Blue Mondays’

After my vacation I took a job in a pharmacy owned by a man I knew from the synagogue. His name was Mr Hausmann and he collected Smurfs. My parents thought it was a good idea for me to have a job. So that I’d come to realise what time and money really meant, my…

‘Becoming the part you are playing’

Marek van der Jagt aka Arnon Grunberg Like his alter ego Arnon Grunberg (1971-), the young Dutch novelist Marek van der Jagt (1967-) writes life stories. His 2000 debut, De geschiedenis van mijn kaalheid (lit. – as in the American translation – ‘The Story of My Baldness’, but widely translated as Amour fou, after its main theme), could…