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The latest Dutch novel I’ve read is Herman Koch’s Zomerhuis met Zwembad or Summer house with Swimming pool. This novel was published in 2011 and wasn’t received as well as Het Diner.
Zomerhuis met Zwembad is told from the perspective of Dr. Marc Schlosser. Schlosser is huisarts or general practitioner that not only feels contempt for the human body but also does little to help his patients. He gladly tells them what they want to hear rather than what they should hear, and offers to write prescriptions for whatever his patients might want.
One day, he receives a somewhat famous Dutch actor, Ralph, in his practice because he would like certain medication. Schlosser accepts and shortly after, some sort of friendship is formed. Schlosser and Ralph meet a couple of times and it leads to an invitation to the summer house Ralph and his family have rented for the summer. Schlosser’s family ends up vacationing there.
Before this point, the narration deals mostly with somewhat disgusting descriptions of foot fungus and sagging bodies. Once the characters are in the summer house, the story turns to the dirty aspects of humans and human interactions. Koch attempts to narrate the basic animal aspect of humans, and in particular, sexuality.
The summer house becomes the setting for one poorly made decision after another with dubious characters that truly test how much we can read along when we dislike the characters. Although Het Diner had this same idea, for some reason, the characters of Zomerhuis went beyond what I could stand of unlikeable.
You can hear Koch’s reading of the novel in the following video.
The reviews for this novel are quite critical of Koch’s narration and plot. There are certainly some holes in the plot as well as some unbelievable medical conclusions that take away from the overall story. The following is a short interview with Herman Koch about what the book is about and whether it is better than Het Diner.
I would recommend this novel because it is, even with the holes, a story that pulls you in and entertains you. Het Parool was a bit harsher on the description of the novel saying “Literatuur is het niet, literatuur zal het nooit worden, maar binnen dit genre worden beslist slechtere dingen gemaakt.”
In the end, these things are more a matter of taste!
Have you read Zomerhuis met Zwembad? If so, what is your opinion?
het publiek– audience
de literatuur– literature
het spreekuur– appointment hour
de aandacht– attention
de illusie– illusion
ademhalen– breath in
de rotzooi– mess