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Open Letter Spring 09 Catalog: Rupert by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer

Info about the first three books from the spring 2009 Open Letter list can be found here. Today we’re covering our June title, Rupert: A Confession by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer.

The premise of this book is that Rupert has been accused of a terrible crime (which isn’t revealed in full until the very end) and has to defend himself. His defense—or imagined defense—is a very lively, hilarious affair, that relies more on rhetorical tricks than facts to get him off the hook.

As a novel, Rupert is more emotionally complicated than it first appears. As you can see in the attached excerpt, Rupert has a very vibrant voice—one that draws the reader in almost immediately. Along the way though, it becomes crystal clear that Rupert is way unhinged and probably quite dangerous. Reconciling these two points of view is tricky, especially since the book is very compelling, and as the final “reveal” of the crime itself and Rupert’s relation to it starts to come clear, it’s like watching a train wreck . . .

Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer seems like quite a character. And one of the reasons I wanted to write this today is because he’s now mired in yet another controversy.

According to the translator of this novel—Michele Hutchison, who, in addition to translating, works for the Dutch publisher De Arbeiderspers—told me that for the back cover of his Collected Poems, Ilja wanted to include a naked photo of himself. That’s all fine and good, but Ilja was on the longlist to be next year’s Poet Laureate . . . up until news of this naked photo broke. He was recently kicked out of the competition and the infamous photo has created quite a bit of media buzz.

And here I thought the Netherlands were supposed to be so liberal and open-minded . . .



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