Disjointed. Unlikeable characters. Badly written.
So, Shaman, tell us what you really think about The Dinner by Herman Koch!
Two brothers and their wives meet up at a fancy restaurant to discuss a very important matter that has to do with their children. The narrator, one of the brothers, recounts the events that led up to this evening. These events are presented in a detached way, without emotion. Explanations are given, yet nobody is held accountable, let alone takes responsibility willingly. Still, every single person around that table should be stepping up to the plate.
The book is divided into sections named after the course the two couples are currently eating. This I found an annoying gimmick, especially because the dishes – otherwise completely irrelevant to the story – are presented in detail (something that has made me skip whole paragraphs when reading Game of Thrones). Maybe this was done on purpose, to irritate the reader and bring him or her closer to the state of mind of Paul, our narrator. By all appearances in a constant state of irritation and with a dangerously short fuse, he makes for a character that's hard to empathise with. His beliefs are at such odds with mine that I almost shuddered with distaste every time he talked about them. I suppose that, if there is one thing Koch succeeds in is to prove that, if you're not careful, you become the monster you detest.
Writing-wise I found the language too simplistic, although that might have depended on the translation. It was difficult at times to understand when the events described were taking place, as the story jumped from ”now” to ”two hours ago” to ”some months ago” to ”many years ago” in a disjointed, confusing manner. Some of the narrator's recollections seem to do little to add to the story except further irritate the reader.
The Dinner was a quick read and it did make me think, so it wasn't a complete waste of my time. But I enjoyed watching Carnage, a film with a similar premise, much more than this.