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The Ditch

de Herman Koch

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21113110,354 (3.23)52
When Robert Walter, popular mayor of Amsterdam, sees his wife toss her head back with laughter while chatting to one of his aldermen at a New Year's reception, he immediately suspects the worst. Despite their long and happy marriage, Robert is convinced that Sylvia is cheating on him-with the respectable alderman who is dedicated to the environment, no less. The man who wants to spoil the capital's skyline with wind turbines. The New Year's reception marks the end of the "happy family" era that the mayor has enjoyed for so long. His wife and their daughter, Diana, however, are not aware of his suspicions and carry on as usual. Robert starts spending a lot of time and energy "behaving normally." Naturally, his normal behavior is far more suspicious. Normally Robert's not really present when he's at home-he's preoccupied with his phone, the newspapers, and his own thoughts. But now Robert is so sure he'll miss the clues if he doesn't pay attention that he starts to be almost alarmingly attentive and interested-ultimately losing himself in increasingly panicked and paranoid trains of thought. Written with Herman Koch's trademark originality, playfulness, and edge, The Ditch is a wildly clever-and guttingly familiar-story of a man whose sadistic skill for undermining himself and his marriage comes to cost him nearly everything.… (més)
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» Mira també 52 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 13 (següent | mostra-les totes)
This book really surprised me. I guess I had a preconceived idea of where the book was going to go, but it did not go in that direction at all. I'm still puzzling over several plot points and the ending... ( )
  SarahMac314 | Aug 12, 2022 |
A reasonably good story of a mayor in Amsterdam who suspects his wife of infidelity, going through all events in his life while trying to comfirm that she is, in fact, having an affair with an alderman.
It is all in his imagination, when he searches for clues that are not really clues, but just his misguided thoughts,
The novel is not as gripping as The Dinner even thought the premise is interesting, ( )
  xieouyang | Mar 22, 2022 |
The Dinner, Summer House with Swimming Pool, and Dear Mr. M. are the first three of Herman Koch’s novels to be translated into English. I’ve given 4 stars to each of them, so I was excited to discover that a fourth, The Ditch, was translated last year.

Robert is the mayor of Amsterdam. At a party, he sees his wife Sylvia chatting and laughing with an alderman and instantly becomes suspicious and assumes they are having an affair. Thereafter, he becomes obsessed with trying to find out if Sylvia is cheating. At the same time, besides having to contend with political issues, he is faced with the imminent death of his aging parents and the life-altering news of his best friend.

I could not but think of Othello while reading this novel, but the difference is that there is no Iago. Robert needs no one feeding his pathological jealousy. When he sees “no visible signs of an affair,” he concludes that “it was precisely the absence of any visible sign or signal that should confirm my worst suspicions.” His other difference is that, unlike Othello, Robert does not act: “Dutchmen get ideas, too . . . But in the end, they don’t actually do anything.” This is a perfect description of the protagonist. He obsesses, but he doesn’t act; he never talks to Sylvia about his suspicions.

Sylvia is not the only one with whom he doesn’t talk. Robert’s father tells him about the suicide pact he and his wife have, but Robert never directly brings up the topic with his mother. Even when he is urged to call his mother, he doesn’t. When he should have a difficult conversation with his father, he just doesn’t contact him. It seems impossible for him to ask a direct question. Perhaps Robert can best be described as evasive: he is concerned with avoiding reality whenever it becomes uncomfortable. At times it seems as if his jealousy is a way for him to distract himself from other concerns.

Though Robert tries to portray himself as an open-minded person, it is obvious that he is not. Sylvia is foreign-born, but he doesn’t reveal her home country because he says he doesn’t want people to have any preconceived notions because of her nationality, yet again and again he mentions her foreignness. Methinks, he doth protest too much. His description of a server is telling: “She was an extremely Dutch Dutch girl, pretty in the way to which our country holds the patent rights, in a way that ought to make the Dutch nation feel proud. So white, so blonde: creamy white.” He launches into an extensive tirade about the monarchy, the gist of which is that “You’ll rarely find a personality among [kings and queens]. They never have to do their best. . . . they don’t have to brainstorm around the country, trying to win votes. They get it all handed to them on a silver platter.”

Robert is a very passive person. He prefers others to make decisions for him. Though he enjoys meeting important world leaders like Clinton, Obama and Hollande, he doesn’t seem to really love being mayor. Rather than be decisive about not running for a third term, he hopes a controversial interview with a reporter might bring his political career to an end. He never takes any action against the alderman whom he suspects of having an affair with his wife. He complains about Amsterdam’s deplorable garbage collection and its ugly city hall, but he doesn’t try to improve either.

What also comes across clearly is that Robert is very insecure. He boasts about appearing on Time magazine’s list of “the one hundred most influential people in the world” and about being “the obvious pivot in almost every group,” but his bragging masks a deep insecurity. He always seems to be comparing himself to his better-looking best friend Bernhard, believing that Sylvia might have chosen Bernhard if she had met him first.
There is considerable humour, much of it at the expense of the Dutch. I loved Robert’s description of the alderman: “Dutcher than a head of endive brought in after a first night’s frost, Dutcher than a pair of clogs with windmills painted on the insteps, Dutcher than cheese and milk, bread for breakfast and lunch, Dutcher than a hole in the ice, than that one single cookie to go with your tea before the lid goes back on the tin.” Having made more than one attempt at learning Dutch, I chuckled at his description of “that harsh gargling and bleak hawking we call the Dutch language.”

Anyone considering reading this novel should be warned that there are several unanswered questions, many of which stem from the fact that Robert is the sole narrator, and an unreliable one at that. Robert’s aversion to confrontation and his evasiveness mean that much is left unexplained. What was his father’s intention with the suicide pact? Is Sylvia guilty of adultery? Were van Hoogstraten’s injuries the result of an accident or an assault? I have my theory about what happened, but I’ll keep it to myself so as not to give any spoilers - though I’m willing to discuss the ending with perplexed readers.

I would not say that this is Koch’s best novel, but it is worth reading nonetheless; a Koch novel is always a thought-provoking read.

Note: Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski). ( )
  Schatje | Apr 7, 2021 |
Daniela:

Dopo il quasi-deludente Odessa Star temevo che fosse iniziato il declino di H.K. Invece questo “Il fosso” è proprio un bel libro. La famiglia -come sempre- anzi, qui la coppia genitoriale, è il fulcro intorno a cui si dipana la vicenda. La relazione di coppia come utopia ed eutopia, dove i silenzi sono protettivi, ponti che permettono di attraversare gli abissi del non-detto, del non dicibile.
Il sindaco di Amsterdam ha una moglie italiana (Koch fa finta di non volerlo rivelare, parla di “una nazione dell’Europa del Sud”, ma semina tanti e tali indizi che non ci si può sbagliare). Le prime 50 pagine - spassose- sono colme dei pregiudizi degli olandesi verso “gli stranieri del Sud”.
Poi succedono delle cose (o forse no). Il tema della gelosia ossessiva, che diventa quasi paranoia, è molto frequentato nella letteratura, da Otello alla Sonata a Kreutzer alla Recherche di Proust. Ma qui è tutto più sfumato, nebuloso, si sfiora il thriller: Una Versione di Barney in salsa olandese, il paese dove non si chiudono le tende perché se no chi passa potrebbe pensare che si ha qualcosa da nascondere. Ma qui i misteri non sono dietro alle tende chiuse, bensì nella mente e nei pregiudizi dei protagonisti. Gran bel libro
  totocampobello | Mar 27, 2020 |
La vida de Robert Walter, el carismático y popular alcalde de Ámsterdam, marido y padre ejemplar y político sin tacha, transcurre sin excesivos sobresaltos. Pero todo se tuerce en el curso de la recepción de Año Nuevo, cuando Robert sorprende a su mujer, Sylvia, charlando al fondo de la sala con el concejal Maarten van Hoogstraten. Un leve roce con el codo, un fugaz cuchicheo al oído y un alegre brindis entre ellos bastan para que la sospecha se instale en la mente del alcalde. Ante esta situación, absolutamente inesperada para él y que hace tambalear su vida, Robert mantiene la apariencia serena inherente a los hombres de su cargo, aceptando el papel que le ha tocado en suerte. Sin embargo, cuando llegue el momento decisivo, quizá tendrá que sacrificarlo todo para no perder lo único que de verdad le importa.

Gracias a su habitual humor corrosivo, su profunda agudeza psicológica y su formidable talento para captar y plasmar el sinsentido de la cotidianidad, Herman Koch novela con extraordinaria audacia el juego de sospechas, mentiras y traiciones que urde nuestras vidas, y se afianza así como una de las voces más punteras del panorama literario actual..
  bibliotecayamaguchi | Nov 26, 2019 |
Es mostren 1-5 de 13 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Hoofdpersoon van de nieuwe roman van Herman Koch – De greppel is de burgemeester van Amsterdam. Robert Walter, door lokale krant geroemd als “menselijke burgemeester,” is de verteller van de roman. Een witte man van middelbare leeftijd die is getrouwd met een buitenlandse vrouw met een puberdochter die door hem in de roman schuilnamen hebben gekregen, een succesvolle en charismatische man die verkeerd met de groten van de aarde als de Franse president François Hollande en ex-president Bill Clinton. Ten minste dat vindt hij van zichzelf...lees verder >
 
Het fundament van elke Koch is de hoofdpersoon, uit wie alles voortkomt: de onderhuidse spanning, de typeringen van het milieu, de heldere taal, het onbetrouwbare perspectief. Het zijn ik-vertellers, vrijwel altijd mannen, zelfverzekerd op het arrogante af; 'geen enkele stilte wordt pijnlijk in aanwezigheid van een sterke persoonlijkheid zoals ik', zegt Robert Walter in De greppel.
In De greppel scheert Koch langs migratie, de overvolle hoofdstad ('een ballenbak voor volwassenen'), euthanasie en klimaatverandering. Je zou het behandelen hiervan terloops en subtiel kunnen noemen, maar ook oppervlakkig.
Koch beheerst zijn metier met zo'n achteloze superioriteit dat je het - onterecht - met gemakzucht zou kunnen verwarren. Wat hij doet is vernuftig, bedrieglijk helder en vol frictie.
afegit per sneuper | editade Volkskrant, Haro Kraak (Nov 12, 2016)
 
Je hebt bij de nieuwe Koch af en toe het gevoel de actueelste roman aller tijden in handen te hebben. Een klassieke, witte man komt tot inkeer. Geloven we dat?
Voor een roman die zich zo nadrukkelijk in de herkenbare realiteit afspeelt, is er wel veel verbeelding nodig om de koerswijziging van Walter te geloven. De bedoelingen van De greppel mogen dan goed en lovenswaardig zijn – laten we ons denken niet laten begrenzen! – maar helemaal overtuigen doen ze niet. Of is dat een vooroordeel over wat een roman moet doen?
 
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When Robert Walter, popular mayor of Amsterdam, sees his wife toss her head back with laughter while chatting to one of his aldermen at a New Year's reception, he immediately suspects the worst. Despite their long and happy marriage, Robert is convinced that Sylvia is cheating on him-with the respectable alderman who is dedicated to the environment, no less. The man who wants to spoil the capital's skyline with wind turbines. The New Year's reception marks the end of the "happy family" era that the mayor has enjoyed for so long. His wife and their daughter, Diana, however, are not aware of his suspicions and carry on as usual. Robert starts spending a lot of time and energy "behaving normally." Naturally, his normal behavior is far more suspicious. Normally Robert's not really present when he's at home-he's preoccupied with his phone, the newspapers, and his own thoughts. But now Robert is so sure he'll miss the clues if he doesn't pay attention that he starts to be almost alarmingly attentive and interested-ultimately losing himself in increasingly panicked and paranoid trains of thought. Written with Herman Koch's trademark originality, playfulness, and edge, The Ditch is a wildly clever-and guttingly familiar-story of a man whose sadistic skill for undermining himself and his marriage comes to cost him nearly everything.

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