Blue Mondays

Overview

The novel's protagonist - named Arnon, like its author - is a young man on the run: expelled from high school and on the outs with his ailing father, he spends his days and nights living a vagabond's life on the streets of Amsterdam. He falls abjectly in love with a waitress in an Italian restaurant, and sneaks into fancy bars and hotels only to skip out when the check arrives. Then he begins to visit prostitutes, girls no older or wiser than he is - and his fumbling, guileless, surprisingly tender encounters ...
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Overview

The novel's protagonist - named Arnon, like its author - is a young man on the run: expelled from high school and on the outs with his ailing father, he spends his days and nights living a vagabond's life on the streets of Amsterdam. He falls abjectly in love with a waitress in an Italian restaurant, and sneaks into fancy bars and hotels only to skip out when the check arrives. Then he begins to visit prostitutes, girls no older or wiser than he is - and his fumbling, guileless, surprisingly tender encounters with them we see the sadness beneath his nonstop comic riffing, and the profound restlessness that drives his search for adventure. The novel's Amsterdam is a place where sex is cheap but love is scarce. Arnon gets by on his cleverness and his sense of humor, and it is these that make Blue Mondays so fresh and entertaining.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"People are as disposable as plastic bags," muses the young protagonist of this bleak and presumably autobiographical first novel, a bestseller in the Netherlands after its 1994 publication. The narrator, who shares the author's full name, is Jewish, a young man growing up in Amsterdam. His mother and father constantly rip into each other and indulge in poisonous dinner exchanges about his severe acne problem. Arnon is fortunate to have a girlfriend with whom to roam the city streets, but his indifference-he lets her letters and phone calls go unanswered-alienates her. Arnon's life is a study in grimness. He drops out of school and takes a series of office jobs that lead him nowhere. His father winds up a hapless invalid while his mother grows shriller and shriller. Finally, in his bored loneliness, Arnon fills up his days with a parade of prostitutes from the escort services and whorehouses of Amsterdam's red-light district. On occasion, Grunberg displays a sharp black wit that relieves his novel's gray ponderousness-but not nearly often enough. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Grunberg's first novel is a study of the seamier side of Amsterdam. As an adolescent, the author's eponymous protagonist falls in love with Rosie, gets kicked out of school, and frequents cafs. The plot moves ahead to his life as a twentysomething floating through cafs and among prostitutes when he can afford them. Grunberg attempts to do for Amsterdam what Henry Miller does for Paris, introducing a variety of characters and situations while searching for a philosophy to live by. This is complicated by protagonist Grunberg's family responsibility, his dying father, his guilt-ridden mother, and his religious background. Despite some high points of humor and pathos, the writing is generally not as animated and multidimensional as Miller's and fails to involve us fully in either his world or his predicament. An optional purchase.-Joshua Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. Sys., Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Kirkus Reviews
World-weariness tinged with tragedy speeds a bourgeois Jewish youth in Amsterdam merrily down the road to ruin in a frank but rather bloodless debut. Author Grunberg, a high-school dropout, was 22 when this was first published in 1994 in the Netherlands.

Naming his teenage narrator for himself, à la Philip Roth, Grunberg places him in as dysfunctional a household and as depressing a school system as can be imagined: His father is a hard-drinking, ailing man of shadowy means, his mother a Holocaust survivor prone to dish-smashing rages, his teachers either drunk, discipline-happy, or self-righteous samaritans. Dropping out, Arnon finds part-time office work, while his father, incapacitated by a stroke, wastes away slowly but surely; at his death he seems to have bequeathed his alcoholism to his only son. Living on his own but unable to keep a job, and traumatized by a few encounters with female classmates—including one in which he's abused by a pair of heavyweight witches—the young man frequents bars and cafes. In time, however, his loneliness and desperation make him turn to an escort service. An endless succession of prostitutes later, he is entirely numb to the process of sex but unable to break the habit, even when faced with the end of his money. And so he takes the advice offered by one of the call girls and signs on with an escort service himself, thereby giving his penchant for self-degradation free rein.

The hero's swift downward spiral, though precisely and persuasively rendered, holds few surprises, while his severely unrelenting distance from all that affects him limits the reader's own level of engagement. Still, spare prose and precise portraits of disaffected characters offer clear promise of stronger work to come.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374114855
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 1/1/1997
  • Pages: 278
  • Product dimensions: 5.92 (w) x 8.65 (h) x 1.05 (d)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2000

    Extraordinary achievement!!!!!!

    Ewald Stanislas van Moorsel took the words right out of my mouth. This is the finest work I have read since 'The Great Gatsby' and 'The Shining'. We will certainly see more from this author, if God is with us.

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