Geachte heer M.
A sardonic cocktail of literary satire and whodunit served by the international bestselling author of The Dinner
Following his ruthless dissections of the hypocrisy of the moneyed classes and corruption in the medical profession, Herman Koch turns his dystopian gaze on the literary world. In his new novel, Dear Mr M. he tells the tale of a fading writer held grimly to account by a neighbour with a score to settle. Did Reckoning, the novel that cemented Mr M’s literary success all those years ago, culpably distort the facts of a mysterious missing persons case?
‘Actual reality is not concerned with compactness. When faced with reality, a writer has no choice but to stick the knife in.’ These words are spoken by Mr M. in a tête-ê-tête with his tormentor Herman, a man he all but accused of murder forty years ago, the same man who has now come to exact retribution. True, Herman was one of the last people to see history teacher Mr Landzaat alive. And yes, as the new flame of a girl who was being stalked by Landzaat, Herman did have a bone to pick with him. But does that mean a writer can suggest with impunity that Herman was involved in Landzaat’s disappearance, even though the suggestion was made in a work of fiction?
An author’s freedom to tailor a story to suit his own ends is one of many literary issues explored in *Dear Mr M. *The novel deals with the crumbling of a writer’s fame, his inability to regain the heights of his literary peak, and the toll exacted by a writerly career, with its readings in rural libraries, interviews with inane journalists and social obligations at gentlemen’s clubs and literary galas. Setting part of the story among school kids in the 1960s also gives Koch the opportunity to lay bare the seedier elements of secondary education, complete with horny teachers, obnoxious teenagers and doomed romances.
But above all, Dear Mr M. is a stylish literary thriller, cunningly constructed – the narrative is presented from five different perspectives – and culminating in an unexpected denouement. Fans of The Dinner and Summer House with Swimming Pool will not only recognise Koch’s twisted cast of characters – from the passive-aggressive downstairs neighbour to the supposedly civilised man of culture – but will also revel in the irony, black humour and comic take on the nastier side of life that have become the trademark of the Netherlands’ best-selling author.