Willem Elsschot - Cheese
Cheese is a gentle, satirical fable of capitalism and wealth. Frans Laarmans is a humble shipping clerk. One day he is suddenly elevated to the position of chief agent for a Dutch cheese company, with responsibility for Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Thrilled by this change of status, he goes on leave and sets up an office at home.
He takes delivery of ten thousand fullcream Edam cheeses. But he has no idea how to run a business or how to sell his goods. He doesn’t even like cheese. With twenty tons of the stuff sitting in storage, crate after crate of it, the cheese starts to haunt him. And when his employer, the brusque Mr Hornstra, wires him to say he is coming to Antwerp to settle the first accounts, Laarmans begins to panic…
Steeped in the atmosphere of the 1930s, an era of smart operators and failed businessmen, Cheese is a graceful portrayal of the rigid class divisions of the time and a man’s obsession with status. This comic masterpiece about the perils of upward mobility is as relevant in the age of Internet investors and dot-com failures as it was when it was written.
Willem Elsschot (1882-1960) was the pseudonym of Alfons de Ridder, head of a successful advertising agency who, unbeknown to his family, was a hugely successful novelist in his spare time. Cheese, his breakthrough novel, was first published in 1933. Other books include Villa des Roses (1913), Soft Soap (1924) and The Leg (1938) and Tsjip (1934). After the war Elsschot wrote Will-o’-the Wisp (1946).
- ‘Elsschot possesses the rare knack for making a reader laugh, squirm and sob, all at the same time.’ - The New York Times
- ‘An extraordinarily moving tragicomedy.’ - The Times Literary Supplement
- ‘A masterpiece […] Enormous fun to read.’ - Kirkus Review