Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Chapter 18

This is one of the longest, most poignant chapters in the book. As a result, it's hard to read.

It opens with another cliche endemic to stories of failing businesses. This time, it's a man proposing a complicated takeover deal.

Laarmans feels like an idiot. He takes stock of everything, looking at his office and everything in it. He continues in this vein, heading for the basement, where he repackages his cheese to send it away in a taxi. Half a ball of Edam is positioned flat side down, so that the crate will look complete at first glance.

From there he goes walking through a rainy Antwerp, stopping at a bar. There is a great interior monologue about his responsibilities to his family. He is very remorseful over what has happened. Best line: If I weren't such a miserable free thinker, I wouldn't have a prayer.

It is during this walk that Dick Matena shows his mastery. While the text is strictly internal, Matena sends Laarmans walking through Antwerp without being distracting. The reader gets into the text, looking on the people around Laarmans with a bit of wonder and envy, the way a person under a lot of stress might. Are they going through all this? Are their lives any better? There are enough extras in this story to make one wonder, but they offer no consolation nor additional pain. The protagonist is still very much alone.

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