Rudyard Kipling once posited that triumph and disaster are imposters and should rightly be treated as such. Both charlatans are on constant display in this novel of one man’s seismic struggle to come to grips with forces assaulting him from all sides. His wife has left him for another woman, his child is publicly embarrassing him, his business is in danger of collapsing, and the government is hot on his trail. The good news is there’s a bar on almost every corner.
Set in modern Rotterdam—which itself is one of the major characters of this tale—a self-made, successful businessman has taken to somewhat outlandish behavior to cope with his current difficulties. He drinks excessively. He befriends strangers. He smokes pot with artists, detectives, and journalists. He arranges ongoing sessions with a porn actress who bears a striking resemblance to his daughter. He plots against his father and the city’s establishment. He roams the streets and rides in water taxis and works out various schemes to solve his problems, boost his child’s career, change multiculturalism to cosmopolitanism, and infuse capitalism with at least some degree of corporate consciousness.
Dröge makes the bustling Netherlands port a focal point of his story by seamlessly inserting its unique history, architecture, and environs into the lives of its inhabitants. His characters—from Dutch natives to Middle Eastern immigrants to Russian businessmen—capture the disparate values and frequently conflicting agendas of people who make up the citizenry of modern city life. This is a comic tale for today’s times—sophisticated, ironic, and often messy—a lot like life itself.