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Kaas by Willem Elsschot

Kaas (1933)

by Willem Elsschot (Author), Menno ter Braak (Foreword)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5861525,249 (3.66)28
Authors:Willem Elsschot (Author)
Other authors:Menno ter Braak (Foreword)
Info:Querido, 115 pages
Collections:Your library

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Cheese by Willem Elsschot (1933)


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» See also 28 mentions

English (13)  Dutch (2)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
The long-serving office-worker Frans Laarmans suddenly gets the chance to set up in business on his own account as a cheese importer. He's essentially a Flemish Mr Pooter, a kindly, mild-mannered husband and father who achieved his maximum promotion level in the shipyard office many years ago, but who can't resist this one last chance to bite off more than he can chew. Laarmans has a lot of fun picking a name for his business, ordering headed notepaper and setting up an office, but then the first batch of twenty tons of Edammer arrives and it becomes all too clear that he is not psychologically equipped to go into grocers' shops and persuade them to order his cheese, even after a session with an expert motivator.

A gentle little social comedy, no real fireworks, but an engaging central character and a lot of charming period detail about commercial life in the thirties. ( )
  thorold | Feb 14, 2017 |
Enigszins flauw, maar toch een hilarisch verhaal over een man en zijn kaastragedie. Aanrader. ( )
  AlexandraWD | May 24, 2016 |
Cheese is a fascinating book with a little bit of humor and a good life lesson about getting involved with a business and listening to your instincts. I found the characters very engaging and I could identify with them. The plot centered around that old time favorite "get rich quick" theme. The writing was excellent as you could feel the pain of Frans Laarmans as he realizes things are not working out as planned. I highly recommend this book as it seems very pertinent to the present times even though it was written in 1933. ( )
  EadieB | Jan 19, 2016 |
Laarmans, a rather unassuming office clerk in the harbor of Antwerpen, is via an influential friend suddenly getting the opportunity to become general agent for a dutch cheese manufacturer. Despite hating cheese, Laarmans is swept away by the prospect of becoming an entrepenuer – and not least what such a label does to his self-image – and faking an illness, takes a sick leave from his job to start this new, prosperous venture. The future is so bright it’s blinding, despite what nay-sayers like his wife and brother think of it. However, finding the right desk takes time, finding the right type-writer and letter paper does too, and before he is even set up there are twenty tons of edamer delivered to him. How does one even sell cheese?

This is a deceptively light-handed, slender book about being in love with who you think you should be, and the inability to say no. It’s a fine example of early modernist writing, a little bit like a gentler Kafka. But the style and the awkwardness of Laarmans also reminds me a little of Magnus Mills, which is high praise. I also have to admit to blushing at times – there’s definitely a little Laarmans in me. ( )
3 vote GingerbreadMan | Oct 31, 2014 |

One of the Great Belgian Novels which you may not have heard of, it's a fairly short parable about a middle-class senior clerk in Antwerp who gets ideas above his station and takes an assignment as representative for Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg of a major Dutch cheese company. He hopes to show his neighbours and rivals that he is made of sterner stuff than they imagined, which I guess sums up Belgian national aspirations of the 1930s (and perhaps not only then). Of course it all goes wrong, and he has to return to his previous job, pretending that none of this ever happened. I bought and read it in English, but the Dutch original is http://www.dbnl.org/tekst/elss001kaas01_01/here (warning: annoying pop-up asking you to participate in a survey). ( )
1 vote nwhyte | May 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (19 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Willem Elsschotprimary authorall editionscalculated
Busse, GerdTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kalmann-Matter, AgnesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Kaas (1999IMDb)
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Aan Jan Greshoff
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Eindelijk schrijf ik je weer omdat er grote dingen staan te gebeuren en wel door toedoen van mijnheer Van Schoonbeke.
Eindelijk schrijf ik je weer omdat er grote dingen staan te gebeuren en wel door toedoen van meneer Van Schoonbeke.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 186207481X, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:58 -0400)

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