Monday, August 27, 2012

The Dinner - By Herman Koch

"How far would you go to protect your child?" asks author Hermann Koch. Husband and wife Paul and Claire Lohman are out to dinner with Paul’s brother. The evening will not be fun. The restaurant's over-priced, pretentious, the maitre' d is boring and over bloated. Everything on the menu is organically grown and tested within an inch of it's gastronomic life! As the night goes on things get even worse! The parents much now discuss what their two teenage sons have been up to - and that is a far worse prospect! Koch's book is dark, moody and provocative, exploring how far a parent would go to save their lil darlings from the results and consequences of outrageous behaviours!
It would be easy to fall into a stream of conscious negativity about the depths of human folly here, yet Koch rises over this. he does, as many TVshows, murder novels and movies done before him place the reader in the seat with the parents. The recent show "The Slap" (and its novel predecessor) does the same thing. We are forced to take sides and change our beliefs against the practicalities of rescuing the situation. This is not the spine chiller I was promised, and I'm kind of glad of that. I didn't want to be led into a dark corner and forgotten. I want optimism- otherwise why would I read to the end. The movie '13' was one of those situations where you can never win, and I didn’t want to be in that position Koch leaves the door ajar, just far enough to make our escape.
Still we have a number of questions ahead of us: To whom and to what do we owe our loyalty? When do state-defined abstractions like justice, and truth, apply? Are 'natural’ institutions like the family an excuse or a rationale to disobey the law? What is a family in any case? What kind of responsibility do we have towards others? Are we really responsible for our own actions? Are we responsible for our child's actions? When is a child not a child?
Ok, The Dinner is not the kind of novel that pretends to be the proving ground of all these dilemmas more a novel of provocations. it likes to sit on the outside and prod at bubbles of morality as they float gamely by. By all means read and think and question, just don't expect this book to resolve anything. you have been warned.

Check out audio on ABC Australia :

No comments:

Post a Comment