‘The Evenings’ by Gerard Reve – A Hilarious Novel About Everyday Boring Life

 

The Evenings’ by Gerard Reve    (1947) – 317 pages          Translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett

How many novels tackle the routine dailiness and dullness of everyday life?

Believe it or not, my life is not an amazing thrill ride doing exciting things and filled with scintillating conversations with intriguing people. In fact most of my life is spent doing rather mundane things and having less than interesting conversations.

‘The Evenings’ is a humorous droll novel about all those less-than-engaging times during our days. The German author Herman Koch has called ‘The Evenings’, “the funniest, most exhilarating book about boredom ever written.” The Dutch consider the novel a classic.

Twenty-three year old Frits van Egter lives with his parents in a small town in the Netherlands. He works in an office.

I take cards out of a file. Once I have taken them out, I put them back in again. That is it.”

Since it is a small town, a lot of Frits’s free time is spent avoiding or not avoiding meaningless conversations with people he knows from around town. He cannot avoid interactions with his parents who bother him to distraction. He also visits his brother Joop and sister-in-law Ina. Whenever he sees Joop, Frits can’t help but mention that Joop is quickly losing his hair. Joop and Frits have fought like this since they were little kids, but it’s mostly in good fun.

His parents with whom he lives annoy him. Their eating habits disgust him. He makes fun of the nasty faces his father makes. It’s the little things in home life that grate on you.

Here is a typical interchange between Frits and his mother:

Does this coat look funny with this hat?” she asked.

“God preserve us,” Frits thought, “what a combination.”

“Cheerful, simple attire,” he said. “It suits you well. Muted and by no means extravagant.”

Of course Frits is pretty annoying himself. He makes his mother call for him three or four times before he finally answers. He tells his parents they are “backwards provincials”.

A lot of the humor in ‘The Evenings’ centers around Frits being obnoxious to his parents, his brother, and his small circle of friends. Everyone expects him to be disgusting, and Frits does not disappoint.

Frits likes to needle his brother and his friends, always teasing and annoying them about their loss of hair and fast approaching baldness.

Frits also enjoys telling rude, gruesome, and disgusting stories which are repeated in the novel. One of Frits’s favorite expressions is “Grand, quite grand, distasteful, but grand.”

To a woman friend (Bep) who lives alone and is scared of intruders, he relates gruesome news stories of break-ins where the occupant or occupants are murdered or maimed.

Frits starts each day off he has from work with high expectations, but by nightfall he finds that it has been just another wasted day.

Gerard Reve makes this boring mundane daily life of Frits Van Egter as entertaining as possible but still for me it does get somewhat repetitive. Instead of accompanying Frits for 10 days, maybe it would have been sufficient with just 7 days.

 

Grade:   B+

 

 

4 responses to this post.

  1. Frits sounds like a great character!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi Cathy,
      Gerard Reve does not smooth down any of Frits’s rough edges, and that makes it fun to read about him. Frits is a spectacularly annoying character.

      Like

      Reply

  2. Ah, yes, that’s the thing about humour. It has to know when to stop.
    *pause*
    I sometimes wonder if the reason so many young people are depressed is because they expect that it will be exciting and glamorous, as they see it in the media…
    Tell you what, though, I went to Latin yesterday, first time since March last year. It was only an hour and a half but I came home exhausted and bombed out on the sofa until dinner was ready. I am so used to doing nothing!!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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