A splendid hall of mirrors
While planning his thesis about Ferdynand LeFebvre, the famous author who disappeared without trace, young doctoral student E.T.A Modderman decides to plagiarize one of his books. The result is Clausewitz, a novel teeming with quotations and pastiche, sparkling metaphors and hilarious turns of phrase.
Both the protagonist and the author he imitates prefer fiction to fact. ‘What are facts?’ Modderman quotes LeFebvre. ‘They tell you no more about a person than washed up driftwood tells you about the ship it came from.’ The origin of the quotes LeFebvre gives are often unclear – are they from literary novels, pop songs, books of quotations, real-life dialogues? No wonder the mystery remains: did LeFebvre even exist and can we trust the account we are reading?
Astonishingly erudite, debut novelist Joost de Vries pokes fun at the 1960s generation of so-called engaged artists. It takes nerve to give a young hero’s associative, semi-negligent quest precedence over plot, philosophy and psychology. Clausewitz is a splendid hall of mirrors where we wander lost and enthralled.