Het Diner



You could say that

this is the story of someone...

who is trying to hold on to happiness.

But that's not really allowed, because

it violates the laws of the world.

We all get our own share of happiness.

But woe to him or her

who asks more for more.

Still, we all do it.

Because how exactly do you

judge what your share is.

That evening we were asked out to dinner.

My brother Serge

had made the reservations.

Because we needed to talk

about our children.


So far we've always been

very pleased with Michel.

But recently he wrote an essay

for his history class...

that came to the attention

of my colleague Mr. Halsema...

- About the death penalty.

- That's correct.

If I may quote...

'The inhumanity of state-implemented

death penalty is such...

'it makes you wonder...'

'whether for some perpetrators

it wouldn't be more humane...'

'to intervene at a much earlier stage.'

Yes, I'm familiar with the passage.

Is that your advice, Mr. Lohman?

Or did your son come up with this

all by himself?

I have to admit that Michel

may have been influenced...

by my opinion

in these kinds of issues.

I have rather strong views on what should

be done with suspects of certain crimes.

And it could be I might have

subconsciously or consciously...

foisted some of these notions on Michel.

Like throwing suspects out of the

eighth-floor window of the police station.

Is that still in there?

That was intended as a joke, of course.

You know... boy talk.

I understand you also worked in education.

Yes, for a number of years.

- But you were suspended.

- Not quite.

No, it was my idea to step back a bit...

and return when things had settled down.

But in fact you never did go back.

You've been unemployed for some years.

Temporarily. If I wanted, I could get

another job tomorrow, in fact.

It says here that you insulted a student.

No, sorry. That you disparaged

the victims of WWII.

The incident you refer to

was about this:

I asked my students

to solve a simple problem.

How many jerks are there

in a group of 100 people?

How many dads who beat their kids?

How many morons? How many a**holes?

How many lowlife slackers griping

about non-existent injuries.

Just look around you and you see

that one family member of yours.

That uncle and his bullshit,

or that ugly cousin who kicks his cat.

Wouldn't you be relieved

if that cousin stepped on a mine?

Or was hit by a bomb?

So consider the thousands...

No, the tens of thousands of victims

we'd miss like a hole in the head.

The horrible injustice lies in the fact...

that even the jerks get a mention

on the war monuments.


I just wanted to give them

food for thought.

I always tried to make the subject

as interesting as possible.

I've never tried to flatter them

with politically correct nonsense.

I kept in mind what I liked.

What I found interesting

when I was at school.

That was my whole point.

- What was your specific interest?

- Well, the Egyptians.

The Greeks, the Romans,

Julius Caesar.

Cleopatra, Hannibal,

Alexander the Great.

The campaigns with the elephants,

the chariot races, the gladiators.

The Trojan Horse.

But there are also a number of great books

about the everyday Roman.

I couldn't care less

about the everyday Roman.

My students come home every day

to the everyday Roman.

My students want to drool over

spectacular murders...

Caesar's 23 stab wounds...

slit wrists in a hot bath,

the eruption of the Vesuvius...

the beauty of the temples, the frescoes...

the bathhouses and the mosaics.

Isn't it all of an eternal beauty?

It's because of those colors that we

are still drawn to the Mediterranean...

rather than to Bremen.


Christianity comes,

everything collapses.

To tell you the truth, I'm glad

that those so-called Barbarians...

smashed the whole thing to pieces.

To be honest...

I must say I am starting to get

a bit worried about Michel.

Is that right?

Yes, because it says here that it

depends on a psychiatric evaluation.


Whether or not you are allowed

to go back to work.

- So the decision is not really up to you.

- It's no big deal.

I don't need a certificate

of good conduct to do my job.

- But it says here...

- May I see that?

Do let me finish.

I happened to talk to a former colleague

about job related stress in teaching.

- Is that right?

- About burn-outs and so on.

- And he mentioned your name.

- Burn-out? I've never had a burn out.

It's just a fashionable illness,

a bunch of nonsense.

I'd really like to...

No! Help!

Come on, man!

What are you doing?

It's OK, it's OK.

It's OK.

Just try to act normal for once.

It's OK. Are you OK?


Yes, everything is a statement.

That's true for ripped jeans

as well as an ironed shirt.

If you don't shave for a day,

you're lazy.

Don't shave for two days

and people wonder if it's a new look.

But a three-days growth and

you're about to go to dogs.

But if you do shave...

people think the evening

mattered so much to you...

you took the trouble to shave.

In fact, by shaving, you're one nil down.

This one or this one?

This one.

Running late.

- Your brother, I guess.

- Well, believe it or not, they'll be late.

These heels, or black heels?

- Black boots.

- This dress with black boots?


Just black boots.

Ah, I get it.

Black boots, fishnet stockings, garters.

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Herman Koch

Herman Koch (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈɦɛrmɑn kɔx]; born 5 September 1953) is a Dutch writer and actor. He has written short stories, novels, and columns. His best-selling novel The Dinner (2009) has been translated into 21 languages. He has acted for radio, television, and film. He co-created the long-running TV series Jiskefet (1990–2005). more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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