Monkey Grabbing Hold of Happiness
The protagonist of the short novel Monkey Grabbing Hold of Happiness, Jean-Baptist Warnke, number two at the Dutch Embassy in Peru, is no exception. In his work as a diplomat Warnke calmly bobs with the tide. Instead of consular assistance, compatriots who find themselves in Peruvian prisons receive a fruit hamper and a couple of Edam cheeses: ‘If you examine it closely, freedom is largely a matter of a proper diet.’
To his own surprise, Warnke is seduced by a young Peruvian woman who exploits him in her work as a terrorist, until she dies in active service. When the truth finally dawns on the diplomat he feels no sense of betrayal and is prepared to commit an insane act of his own, out of misplaced love for the Peruvian girl. Grunberg transforms Warnke from a dreamy idiot into a suicidal terrorist. A stunning and utterly convincing achievement.
Arnon Grunberg is never afraid to confront readers with a harsh message. His well-intentioned characters are always painfully naive and they consistently come to a sticky end. Grunberg describes their fateful progress in razor-sharp sentences and desperately hilarious scenes, combining the tragic power of Albert Camus with the humour of Woody Allen.