Surprising debut: a thrilling, philosophical book
Oneetbaar brood (Inedible Bread) is Floor Haakman’s surprising debut, praised quite rightly by the critics. The accolades are mostly for the subtle way in which Haakman has managed to make a philosophical book thrilling. The main character is the philosopher, Nadar, who, in response to his boring everyday life becomes increasingly ensnared in his own imagination.
Nadar’s existence revolves around a boring job at the university where he lectures in rhetoric, his marriage to Emma, who runs a successful art shop, and his friend from his own university days, Berend. But the reader very soon realises that he is inventing most of his life, apparently for the benefit of his student, Osten-Sibel. She fascinates Nadar, but also makes him nervous, as she looks strikingly like someone he has known. She is sitting with Nadar outside a cafe one day. ‘I’m so glad I found you,’ she says, ‘I’ve been searching for you for so long.’
Not only does Osten-Sibel keep cropping up in Nadar’s thoughts; she seems also to be forcing her way into his real life. She appears unexpectedly at a party Emma throws. Does Nadar really make love with her in the garden, in full view of all the guests who assembled at the window in order not to miss the show? He goes to Paris with his wife for a few days and he bumps into Osten-Sibel there, too. Not only on the street but also in his thoughts and dreams. Once he has come this far, actual events start to merge with memories of an earlier visit to Paris twenty years previously, when Nadar was staying there with his first love. What unbearable reality has Nadar been suppressing all these years? Can he escape it through his imagination?
Haakman builds the tension up as far as it can go, to a depressing climax on the Eiffel Tower. Oneetbaar brood is a novel that doesn’t easily relinquish its secrets and leaves the reader astounded.