CHEESE by Willem Elsschot


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“Elsschot” (1882–1960), whose real name was Alfons de Ridder, was the Dutch Italo Svevo: an advertising executive whose rueful comic novels dramatized the plight of the “little man” in a busy world with a rare combination of comedy and pathos. The protagonist here is Frans Laarmans (who appears elsewhere in Elsschot’s fiction), a nondescript shipping clerk whose promotion to European agent for his Antwerp firm’s Edam cheese plunges him into a nightmare of obligation and bureaucratic complexity. As Laarmans frets and panics, hundreds of wheels of Edam sit, and stink—ripening into an ingenious metaphor for the burdens imposed by their reluctant possessor’s frenzied pursuit of status and security. A 1933 masterpiece, published here for the first time, and one that’s enormous fun to read.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-86207-481-X
Page count: 153pp
Publisher: Granta
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2002


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