The Evenings by Gerard Reve
This book came recommended to me by a Dutch customer at Pages on Kensington. He was visiting the country and looking for quintessential Canadian novels, and after some discussion on books we had both enjoyed he mentioned this book, along with the words “if you never read any other Dutch book, read The Evenings”. He left immediately afterwards with Alistair Macleod and (spiritually Canadian? He gets enough CBC airtime...) Ian MacEwan, leaving me with an overwhelming desire to read this book. We were fortunate enough to already have it on the shelf, and I purchased it that afternoon, pleasantly surprised to see the Herman Koch quote on the front (insert plug to read THE DINNER) here, and boy, did this book nailed the feelings I had in my mid-twenties on the head.
While it is difficult to compare the cushy Calgary life I was enjoying with living by the heat of a wood-burning furnace in post-world-war-II Netherlands, the persistence of feeling pointless and without direction can always be relative to expectations (right?). This novel is masterful at pointing out this feeling that I suspect everyone goes through at some point in their lives, and while I wasn’t exactly pining for a war to give my life purpose, I have been through Frits’ (Fritz? memory is fuzzy) longing for the morning hours ticking away as he accomplished nothing but observing the fact that it was ticking away. It had me laughing out loud with Frits’ humourless, dry observations, and also a little uncomfortable at times with some of his antics. Maybe a moral for the book is don’t get caught up thinking about the inevitable.