Tragicomedy about a grouch who becomes ensnared in his own delusions
It’s a standard literary trope: an unremarkable man starts to fantasise about the gangster lifestyle, gets in with the wrong crowd and plunges himself into ruin. But in his fourth novel, Herman Koch presents his own twisted take on this familiar plotline: his protagonist Fred Moorman, stranded in a meaningless job and a joyless marriage is anything but a pitiful victim.
He is an unscrupulous bastard who doesn’t think twice about calling in a hard-ened criminal to rid him of the bane of his life: an elderly lady tenant who is hogging the garden with her foul-smelling dog. Deep down, he sees himself as an bermensch and has no qualms about enlisting the services of disorganised crime to sort out his layabout brother-in-law. But crime and amateurism are often a disastrous mix. Odessa Star, named after the city Fred regards as the pinnacle of underworld chic, features moments of riotous comedy. Koch displays perfect timing and shows himself to be a master at describing absurd trains of thought and scenes of pure slapstick.