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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Het tweede bestand

Arnon Grunberg

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Title: Het tweede bestand
Author: Arnon Grunberg
Genre: Novel
Written: 2017
Length: 61 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: in: Die Datei - Deutschland
  • Het tweede bestand has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B : solid, compact tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Het tweede bestand ('The Second File') is a follow-up to Het bestand, an even more compact and tightly-focused novella, centered around the protagonist from the previous story, Lillian. No longer working, the computer-savvy twenty-something has retreated entirely, holed up in her mother's house, her connection to the rest of the world almost entirely electronic. Lillian is waiting for a second coming she is convinced of, in the form of a computer virus that will unleash the Apocalypse, while her mother desperately tries to connect with her distant and odd daughter.
       A virus is spreading -- inside Lillian: she is pregnant. Obviously not an immaculate conception, and yet, for Lillian, essentially as out of the blue and unconnected to a man and sex as that one was. She acknowledges it, but has difficulty fully accepting it, especially the idea that it will result in something human; it is much easier for her to see and treat what's growing in her as a virus (to the consternation of those she mentions that to). She can't imagine raising a child and plans to foist it on her mother, a solution to both their problems -- Lillian's mother desperate to share her love, Lillian believing herself unable to act on and out of either filial or maternal love.
       While pregnant, Lillian works on a computer program, to spread love after the coming apocalypse. Christ II, she calls it, and her mother is her first test-subject. Unable to give her mother the attention and affection she craves, Lillian programs Christ II to communicate with her, sending her text messages that give the illusion of engagement, interest, and even love. It's convincing, too: her mother is readily fooled -- and happy to be.
       The story culminates with the birth, which forces Lillian back into the real world, in a manner of speaking (as she is almost comically hoisted into it). Here, too, Grunberg does not go for easy resolutions; the conclusion is, on the one hand clear -- and yet also wonderfully/horribly open-ended.
       Lillian's story in Het tweede bestand can read like a descent into psychosis, the damaged character losing herself ever further in her alternate-world depths. There are connections to the real -- specifically in the form of her mother, even though that connection is hardly real or deep, as she gets fooled by Lillian and her program. It makes for a fascinating, moving character-portrait -- Grunberg excels at this --, a short sketch, but one that is effectively and well presented.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 November 2018

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Het tweede bestand: Reviews: Arnon Grunberg: Other books by Arnon Grunberg under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Dutch literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Arnon Grunberg was born in 1971 and has won numerous literary prizes.

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© 2018-2023 the complete review

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