Herman Koch

Odessa Star

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.

Wanting to know what happens to Fred keeps you turning the pages. But his creator builds so expertly towards the climax that you’d keep turning them anyway.’

NRC Handelsblad

Herman Koch

Herman Koch (b. 1953) is an internationally best-selling author. In 2009 he wrote The Dinner, which was translated into 42 languages and acquired world fame. In the years that followed, bestsellers such as Summer House with Swimming Pool (2011), Dear Mr M. (2014), The Ditch and Finnish Days (2020)…

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Odessa Star (2003). Fiction, 304 pages.
Words: 95,292


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