Not a Cheerful Science

The Unrelenting World-Picture of Willem Frederik Hermans I must have been fourteen or fifteen when I informed my mother that I had now read all of juvenile literature. The school library I had exhausted; the bookshelves at home I had already utterly devoured. I had even read my father’s books, admittedly numerous but with only…

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…

In Search of Self

New Prose Writing in Dutch after 1985 Revisor Prose The wave of innovation which gave rise to the ‘new’ prose of the 1980s first made its appearance in the Netherlands with the publication in 1974 of the literary journal De revisor. The generation of young writers which it brought to the fore — Dirk Ayelt…