A Dutch Romance
A Dutch Romance takes place mainly in fashionable Moscow today, despite its title. Waterdrinker writes about Joost Schlingemann, a successful businessman in his thirties, but a manic-depressive, a man in a crisis. The story starts when Joost is left by his wife Suzette, at the very moment that he has attained the success that she has always expected of him. He has become a highly paid consultant with a company advising Russian firms about new products. Joost and Suzette live in Moscow with their son Max; they have a lovely dacha, a nanny, and a car with chauffeur. Nevertheless Suzette takes a dislike to Russia and returns to Holland with Max, precipitating Joost’s crisis. He leaves his job, moves to a dreary apartment, and throws himself into pointless nightlife.
After the fall of Communism, the Russian capital became a hotbed of criminalized capitalism in which corruption, greed, self-interest, and decadent pleasure predominated. Joost tries desperately to find a way out of the chaos to a new and above all, a better life. Literature could offer one way; Joost, not just an economist had tried writing but gave up after three unsuccessful novels. Now his publisher holds out the prospect of foreign translations which may offer him another chance. Will Joost undergo the same metamorphosis as his friend, the wealthy but fanatic socialist Berend Braverman? He gets caught up in Berend’s plans and intrigues and these make A Dutch Romance a topical and penetrating view of society – at times cynical, but above all, readable. In 125 short chapters Waterdrinker sketches the dilemmas that tear apart his principal character. A Dutch Romance is meaty, and a pleasure to read too.