by Open Letter
Brilliant absurdist chronicle of a hapless outsider’s struggle to do the right thing.
Arnon Grunberg’s fourteenth novel charts the downfall of Geniek Janowski, a Polish-German firefighter doing his best to be a good father, husband, lover and colleague, only to fail on all fronts.
Geniek leads a seemingly unremarkable life with his wife, Wen, and their son, Jurek, in the sleepy Dutch province of Limburg, where everyone simply calls him “The Pole” because they can’t pronounce his real name. He is the only foreigner and the only vegetarian at the fire station, yet to him the crew feels like a band of brothers.
When he discovers that the wife of his colleague, Beckers, is dying, The Pole is reminded of the role she played in his own life following the death of his eldest son, Borys—namely, by providing consolation in the form of unorthodox sexual acts. Racked by guilt, The Pole confessed the affair to his wife, and the retreated to a monastery for a year, where he ended up living in the henhouse. On his return, he is allowed to rejoin the fire brigade, though everyone in town has their doubts.
Grunberg has lost none of his edge in this acutely absurdist account of the powerlessness of human beings to alter their fate. Comfort, salvation, love, and solidarity seem out of reach. In the world of Good Men, illusions about humanity and, above all, brotherhood will never prevail.
Translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett
About the Author:
Arnon Grunberg (1971) debuted at the age of 23 with the wry, humorous novel novel Blue Mondays, which brought him instant success. Some of his other titles are Silent Extras, The Asylum Seeker, The Jewish Messiah, Moedervlekken (Birthmarks), and Tirza. Under the pseudonym Marek van der Jagt he published the successful The Story of my Baldness, and Gstaad 95-98, as well as the essay Monogaam (Monogamous). Grunberg also writes plays, essays and travel columns. His work has won him several literary awards, among which the AKO Literature Prize for Phantom Pain and The Asylum Seeker, and both the Libris Literature Prize and the Flemish Golden Owl Award for Tirza. His work has been translated into over 25 languages. He has contributed to numerous international newspapers, including The New York Times, Times (London), L’Espresso, and Die Zeit. Arnon Grunberg lives and works in New York.
About the Translator:
Sam Garrett is a prolific translator of Dutch literature, twice winner of the Society of Authors’ Vondel Prize for Dutch-English translation. His 2012 translation of The Dinner by Herman Koch became the most popular Dutch novel ever translated into English.
Praise for Arnon Grunberg:
“With this novel, Grunberg advances slowly but surely toward the class of major authors who write lucidly about the incomprehensibility of human actions.”