Arnon Grunberg

The well


Yesterday the former Dutch book critic Hans Goedkoop talked to my students during my class at Leiden university.
He explained why he stopped writing book reviews, which is something he also did in his collection of essays “A story that should change life” (“Een verhaal dat het leven moet veranderen”.)
In this book Hans Goedkoop wrote that the taster (i.e. the reviewer) is poisoning the dinner. Not by writing negative reviews, but by writing reviews that are not connected to “life” anymore. He compared the book section of the newspaper to a well. Every week another review is thrown down the well.
The sentence about the taster was the beginning of a discussion in which Mr. Goedkoop tried to clarify why the culture of contemporary book reviews adds to the inability of literature to say something meaningful about reality.
Well inability, let’s say the difficulty that literature has to say something meaningful about reality.