A black comedy about human failings
‘The great novel of the nineties that no Dutch writer has yet dared to attempt,’ enthused one reviewer of Casino. Another cheered, ‘the engagé novel is back!’, adding, ‘the most important novel published in Dutch in a long time.’
Because of its scope, plot, style and daring structure, Casino is a book that you can’t ignore.
This time, Brouwers’ aggressive irony and the ruthlessness which she became known for in her very first novel Havinck (1984), zoom in on Rink de Vilder as he meets the slick young businessman Philip van Heemskerk, a man who is way out of his league. Not that he minds about that, as he sees himself as a perceptive journalist whereas Van Heemskerk is out to make money. Yet De Vilder becomes increasingly entangled in Van Heemskerk’s affairs, not least because of his involvement with Van Heemskerks girlfriend Moura.
The complicated friendship between these two men and their respective journalistic and business wheeling and dealing is dazzlingly based in the slick, hedonistic mentality that became big in the nineties. Brouwers partly shows this background implicitly, by closely following her characters in their comings and goings and their thinking, and partly in passages that explicitly analyse and elaborate on the seven cardinal sins, the history of sexual morality, the right to a hearing as set down in the Dutch constitution, and the tricky details of the Opium law, among others. It is a phenomenal novel.
Although Brouwers emphasises in her interviews that she is ‘only’ a writer and not a documentary maker or journalist, the biting portrait of the era that she creates in her novel invites questions about the social background of her subject matter. ‘Before you know it, you’re a Cassandra predicting the destruction of Troy,’ mutters Brouwers. ‘My way of saying something is to tell a story.’ In Casino she illustrates this gift better than ever.