The dinner by Herman Koch

The dinner Herman Koch

Dutch Literature

Translator Sam Garrett

Herman Koch is  fairly well known in his homeland of the Holland ,as he is a tv producer and also an actor in the dutch show Jiskefet a humourous  sort of satire show  that ran for a number of years on dutch television .He has also lived in both russia and Finland earlier  in his time .The dinner was his sixth novel ,he has also published short stories and a collection of newspaper columns .

If I had to give a definition of happiness,it would be this :happiness needs nothing but itself ,it doesn’t have to be validated .”all happy families are alike ,each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way ” opening sentence of Tolstoy’s Anne Karenina

Paul just as him and his wife Claire arrive at the restaurant

Now when the Dinner arrived I was a bit worried ,when I see it mention in comparison to the slap a book which I hated ,anyway safe to say after reading it yes the bare bone is maybe  along the line of the slap , something happens a turning point like in the slap ,but here it is two boys not one and this turning point is a lot more serious than the slap was .The book was based loosely on an event that happened in 2005 in Barcelona here is the report of the court case from el pais  

Everyone ,of course ,had noticed the Lohmans arrival .There was even what you might described as a stifled tumult around the lectern :no less than three girls in black pinafores were fussing over Serge and Babette ,the manager was hovering around the lectern too

Paul watching his successful brother arrive for their dinner


SO we meet two sets of obviously worried parents ,the book is set out like the dinner they are about to have so we get five main parts Apretif ,appetizer ,main course ,desert and digestif .the two couples are brothers and sister in-laws .Paul and Serge the brothers although brothers as the meal unfolds you see they have different values and reasons for their sons doing this act the meal starts with a lot of simple chatter about films and the times but always a sense of the real reason they are there  .Part  of  me feel although this book is about one small incident that is very violent and maybe like similar crimes in the uk can be used to highlight a change in moral standards a sort of the youth have gone wild as we often see headlines in papers like the daily mail .This book is maybe that discussion using the two sets of parents as the different values that can be found in modern holland ,one being more liberal and the other saying that kids should be drawn more into line and this is the reason this act happened Paul is a teacher and his brother is an up and coming politician ,whose career hangs in the balance because of this act his son and nephew did .This is all seen through the less successful brother eyes the over the top meal and his brothers airs and graces .I was reminded at times of Frasier and wondered if this had happen to him how it would be handled ,because under it all is the black satire that Koch made his name with in  the past a look at modern morals and manners ,also the changing face of youth .I found this a challenging book that makes the reader think about what you would do and as at some point in the near future I hopefully be a father as we try for  a child I maybe for the first time wondered what I would do if my child did this and like the couples the answer to that question is very hard .

Have you read this book ?

Did you like the slap ?

BBAW 2012 Favourite blogs

Well it’s that time of year and it seems to have come around quickly this year when it is the annual book blogger appreciation week ,this is the third I ve been involved with of the five years it has been running and this time there are no awards ,which I feel is better as the awards seem to add a feeling of whose best to the week when it should be what we do well and what we can all bring to the blogging table .I ve let the blog slip lately but hope now I ve wi-fi and a better shift pattern at work for blogging to be back this winter to the blog I was a while ago .Any way too todays task and it is the yearly favourite blog question I ve picked blogs other year I ve loved and will this time but different ones as I feel some blogs I ve mentioned a few times on the blogs and others I love I ve never really mentioned .so here we go .

Tony’s reading list

Tony has been around longer than me ,we have fairly similar tastes in books and he took part in the first shadow IFFP I ran earlier this year .I love tony mix of books he mix classics and translations so well but also reads a lot of books in the original language .

Beauty is a sleeping  cat 

Caroline is such a busy blogger she runs film and war book monthly meme’s and is also doing a Antiono Tabucchi reading week in a couple of weeks I hope to take part if my library ordered book arrives in time .Caroline covers mostly European lit and lots books she reads are new to me when she reviews them .

1streading blog 

I m not sure of the bloggers name here ,but they covered a lot of this years IFFP list and also a lot of other translated fiction and are a new boy on the book blogging scene .There reviews are more in-depth than mine ever could be ,if you’re not following you should try too .

Reader in the wilderness 

Judith is based in Canada and she reads a number of german books and in october is doing the first Bernhard Schlink reading week which I am looking very much forward too .She also cover a number of modern american and Canadian writers .

Gudruns tights 

I love Anbolyn she has commented on my blog with her earlier blogs ,she reads lots classics and female writers which are two areas I don’t read a lot from  so she is my go to blog .Most recent writer she made appeal to me was Barbara Pym which when I next see a second-hand book by her I ll be buying .

September 2012


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