Grunberg: as much talent as chutzpah


Expelled from high school in Amsterdam, Arnon Grunberg rapidly became a literary wunderkind and enfant terrible. The author of audacious tragicomedies, he won a prestigious award, the Netherlands’ Anton Wachter Prize for debut fiction, twice, although initially no one realized it. In 1994, at age 23, Grunberg received the award for “Blue Mondays.” Then, in 2000, a Viennese writer, Marek van der Jagt, who had been attacking Grunberg and other Dutch writers in the press for being frivolous, won the prize for his first novel, “The Story of My Baldness.” Except that Van der Jagt was actually Grunberg.

Twice a recipient (as himself) of the AKO Literature Prize, which is the Dutch equivalent of the British Man Booker Prize, this transgressive, bestselling, prolific, gimlet-eyed scamp once again raises the controversy quotient. In his eighth harrowing novel, “The Jewish Messiah,” Grunberg, the son of Jews from Germany, detonates the promise of a Jewish messiah and satirizes the persistence and insidiousness of anti-Semitism and the dire consequences of malignant messianic missions.

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