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Issue 81 - A paternal side

Whisky Magazine Issue 81
July 2009


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A paternal side

Jefferson delves into a gripping Dutch novel.

Whisky is getting more and more popular in countries where English isn't the native language, so it's not surprising that it pops up with increasing frequency, too, in world literature.

Karel van Loon's 2002 novel A Father's Affair is one such work, and thankfully it's accessible for those of us who don't do Dutch in a readable translation.

Holland has always struck me as a society with a crazy subconscious carefully concealed behind a deceptive screen of extremely humdrum respectability. And this novel begins with a cracking example of precisely that.

The hero Armin, an editor of academic textbooks, goes to the doctor after his partner has trouble getting pregnant. There he's told he's impotent, congenitally impotent.

The first thing I feel…is relief. Files have been switched, test results keyed in wrongly, someone with the same name, sitting in another doctor's office is being told at this very moment: “There's absolutely nothing wrong with you, sir…” “But that's impossible,” I say. “I have a thirteen-year-old son.” There are beginnings of novels that grab you.

This one grabs you by the short and…well, you get the idea.

What follows has been described well as “whodunit of the human heart.” Armin's ex-wife Monika, the mother of son Bo, is dead, and our hero has to figure out who the real father is, and if he really wants to know.

His main methods of sleuthing are interrogating old friends, snooping on potential suspects and drinking copiously.


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