Peter Buwalda’s “Bonita Avenue” or the level of Dutch literary criticism

“Nobody even played a role in one’s life, he realized once more” (Aaron)

It’s a shame that a book that is hailed by literary critics as a ‘great Dutch novel’ turns out to lack any depth. The family drama about a brilliant professor, his stepdaughter who features on the pornographic website he visits and his criminal son who tries to blackmail him is indeed excellently written in expressive prose. The main characters of the novel hide themselves for each other and are on their own, but the possible meaning of their secret dissolves in the obligatory descriptions of sex and violence in this page turner. It was striking to realize that the key characteristic of the relation between the main characters – “what do we know about each other?” – is also applicable on the relation of this novel to its reader. It says a lot about the intellectual level of Dutch literary criticism, that precisely this novel has been hailed as a masterpiece and has won several awards.

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