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 ?

17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Iris
    Sep 10, 2012 @ 17:50:09

    I haven’t read The Slap of The Dinner, but I do know that this is on my “miust read” list for next year’s Dutch Lit Month. You are right, Herman Koch is one of the bestselling Dutch authors at this moment. And it looks like I might have some national pride in me as I keep smiling seeing how much attention this book seems to receiving for its English translation.


  2. Parrish
    Sep 10, 2012 @ 18:40:36

    Read neither & again as a parent, I’m not sure how I would react beyond the initial response of disgust, recently finished Dark Matter by Juli Zeh, which looked at this problem from a different angle, that being If your child was kidnapped & you were told you had to kill someone to get them back, would you?


  3. Michael @ Literary Exploration
    Sep 10, 2012 @ 23:41:19

    I really loved this book and I compared it to The Slap as well in my review (which is on my blog Thursday). Thanks for the review and confirming my thoughts on it


  4. Caroline
    Sep 11, 2012 @ 08:51:16

    I haven’t read those books but I’m tempted to read The Dinner. It sounds thoughtprovoking.


  5. gaskella
    Sep 11, 2012 @ 14:47:00

    I dithered over this one in the bookshop, but ultimately the lobster on the cover put me off – shallow I know! However, it does sound interesting (and better than The Slap, which I haven’t read), so I’ll look out for in when it’s out in normal pbk.


  6. Leeswammes
    Sep 12, 2012 @ 11:11:16

    I read both The Dinner and The Slap, or actually, I read Het Diner and The Slap, to be more correct. I loved them both, but found them really different. I mean, the issues are similar, but the set-up of both books is very different. I think The Slap is a more serious book, but eventually, the issue in The Dinner is a more important one.


    Oct 01, 2012 @ 08:55:02

    Hi Stu – its a great read isn’t it. I didn’t know that it was based on an actual court case though – very interesting. I think its much better than The Slap – a book which like you I didn’t like at all


  8. Trackback: Look at what I won! « Gaskella
  9. Trackback: What can we read into the food served in the Dinner blog tour | Winstonsdad's Blog
  10. Trackback: Dutch Lit fortnight – Herman Koch Answers some questions | Winstonsdad's Blog
  11. Trackback: The Dinner by Herman Koch (& GIVEAWAY) | Iris on Books

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September 2012


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