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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

De verstekeling

Maarten Asscher

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Title: De verstekeling
Author: Maarten Asscher
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999
Length: 102 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Die Reise des David Melba - Deutschland
  • De verstekeling has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B : simply too implausible -- but does have some nice touches

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
NRC Handelsblad . 24/9/1999 Arnold Heumakers
Trouw . 18/9/1999 Onno Blom

  From the Reviews:
  • "Vernuftig en elegant schrijft Asscher nog steeds. (...) In De verstekeling doet Asscher wederom een krachtig beroep op de verbeelding om het onwaarschijnlijke een moment werkelijkheid te laten worden. Maar ditmaal is dat vooral de verbeelding van de lezer, die zich de nodige moeite moet getroosten om te kunnen geloven in de persoonsverwisseling en de daaruit voor David voortvloeiende metamorfose." - Arnold Heumakers, NRC Handelsblad

  • "Asscher vertelt zijn verhaal snel en soepel. Het enige wat mij stoorde, was de onwaarschijnlijke samenloop van omstandigheden. (...) Maar af en toe verlangde ik dat Asscher aan zijn verbeelding een sprankje meer werkelijkheidszin had toegevoegd." - Onno Blom, Trouw

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       De verstekeling begins with David Melba gagged and bound in a bathroom stall at Amsterdam's airport, before jumping back a bit to explain how he found himself in that position. A computer specialist working for the government treasury department, he had recently broken up with his girlfriend (who had gotten fed up with his lack of much concern about and plans for the future) -- and then hooked up with a woman he knew slightly and met again at a party, Jetta. After a night together David took off in the morning, just leaving a note behind -- and, deciding he needed a change off scenery, booked a trip for a week-long Mediterranean vacation, the flight leaving that very night. The flight, however, is delayed until some ungodly early-morning hour; worse, when David goes to the bathroom he is conked on the head and robbed -- not just of his money and clothes but, it turns out, his identity.
       The person who knocked out David is a Moroccan man named Moustafa, and his side of the story is also presented, in the forms of several chapters that consist of the letters he faxes to David, explaining how he came to do what he did. Moustafa not only robbed David, he changed places with him: so effectively, in fact, that he was able to board the plane in David's stead, and take David's vacation -- while David, once he freed himself, was taken for the fugitive (as it turns out) Moustafa and immediately arrested.
       The fact that it takes David so long to prove who he is is a big problem for the story: it simply sounds too implausible. Asscher does his best in suggesting how this might happen (David isn't in any physical condition to explain to the police who he really is when they arrest him; he does bear a striking resemblance to the Moroccan), but it is very hard to suspend disbelief for so long.
       Otherwise, however, De verstekeling unfolds fairly well and cleverly. David is eventually assigned a lawyer (who also gets to give his own impressions in one chapter narrated by him), but the wheels of justice, or even just proper investigation, turn slowly, and it is a few days before everything is cleared up. Jetta -- a stewardess -- and concepts of fate also come to play roles, as Asscher manages to tie things up very agreeably. For each of the three characters these events make for a cathartic experience.
       Asscher tells his story fairly well, though it's an ambitious mix (in barely a hundred pages) that covers everything from true love to the treatment of immigrants to questions of what one should do with one's life to fate itself. The implausibility is problematic, but he's a good enough writer (and pulls things together very nicely in its conclusion) to make it an appealing short read.

- M.A.Orthofer, 5 February 2010

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Reviews: Other books by Maarten Asscher under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Dutch literature

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Maarten Asscher was born in 1957.

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