Cheese by Willem Elsschot

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Synopsis

Cheese is a gentle, satirical fable of capitalism and wealth. A clerk in Antwerp suddenly becomes the chief agent in Belgium and Luxembourg for this red-rinded Dutch delight and is saddled with 370 cases containing ten thousand full-cream cheeses. But he has no idea how to run a business, or how to sell his goods, and he doesn't even like cheese. Steeped in the atmosphere of the 1930s, in a world full of smart operators and and failed businessmen, Cheese gracefully incorporates the rigid class divisions of the time and a man's obsession with status. It is as relevant in our age of Internet investors and dot.com failures as it was when it was written.
 

About Willem Elsschot

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Willem Elsschot is a classic example of a dilettante turned professional writer. He wrote his stories in his spare time while working as an advertising agent in Antwerp. His profession explains the themes of his most successful stories LijmenLijmen (Soft Soap) and Het Been (The Leg), published in 1924 as parts of the same collection of novelettes. Until this time he had never intended to publish anything he wrote and had to be persuaded to do so by the editors of Nieuw Vlaams Tijdschrift, a Flemish journal established to specifically promote the cause of Flemish literature and culture. It is his total lack of interest in anything academic, even literary - he claims never to have read a literary work of art - which lends to Elsschot's work the very fresh and original quality for which it is known. He humorously satirizes the dubious techniques of salespersons in marketing and selling their wares. In addition to his prose works, Elsschot has written some poems which have become a unique part of the Dutch literary heritage. Harry Mulisch was born in Holland. His novels include the international bestsellers "The Assault" (which has been translated into twenty languages and made into a film that won an Oscar in 1987 for Best Foreign Film), "The Discovery of Heaven," and "The Procedure," Paul Vincent lives in London and translated Harry Mulisch's previous two novels.
 
Published April 1, 2002 by Granta Books. 134 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Cheese

Kirkus Reviews

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“Elsschot” (1882–1960), whose real name was Alfons de Ridder, was the Dutch Italo Svevo: an advertising executive whose rueful comic novels dramatized the plight of the “little man” in a busy world with a rare combination of comedy and pathos.

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Publishers Weekly

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Laarmans isn't fond of cheese—upon visiting a cheese shop, he observes, "The Roqueforts and Gorgonzolas lewdly flaunted their mould, and a squadron of Camemberts let their pus ooze out freely"—but he is willing to snatch at any opportunity to escape his drab job at the shipping yards and enhance ...

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London Review of Books

‘Cheese’ is a loaded symbol: big cheese, hard cheese, the moon is made of green cheese.

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