Expelled from school and estranged from his father, a cynical young man wanders the streets of Amsterdam, spending his remaining funds on prostitutes and surviving on the strength of his wit and humor.
"People are as disposable as plastic bags," muses the young protagonist of this bleak and presumably autobiographical first novel, a bestseller in the Netherlands after its 1994 publication. The narrator, who shares the author's full name, is Jewish, a young man growing up in Amsterdam. His mother and father constantly rip into each other and indulge in poisonous dinner exchanges about his severe acne problem. Arnon is fortunate to have a girlfriend with whom to roam the city streets, but his indifference-he lets her letters and phone calls go unanswered-alienates her. Arnon's life is a study in grimness. He drops out of school and takes a series of office jobs that lead him nowhere. His father winds up a hapless invalid while his mother grows shriller and shriller. Finally, in his bored loneliness, Arnon fills up his days with a parade of prostitutes from the escort services and whorehouses of Amsterdam's red-light district. On occasion, Grunberg displays a sharp black wit that relieves his novel's gray ponderousness-but not nearly often enough. (Publishers Weekly)