Marcel Möring, In a Dark Wood (2008)

“‘Forget the Purgatorio,’ says a character in Marcel Möring’s new novel, ‘leave the Paradiso unread. Hell and nothing but that. That is the world.’ In this intelligent, literate narrative, the forest that skirts the Dutch town of Assen becomes the dark wood of Dante’s Inferno, while the town itself is depicted as a desolate place of sin and suffering.

[…]

“Homer, Dante, Joyce, Greek myth, Arthurian romance – Möring’s debts are unmistakable, but there’s no sense of a sneaking or slavish dependency on these sources; his unapologetic literary borrowings are a form of celebration. His exuberance sometimes seems hyperactive, but its general effect is compelling. His approach is perhaps best understood through analogy with another art form: at one point he invokes the spirit of Miles Davis, describing the great jazzman ‘going into the studio with a handful of notes and chords and in a hallucinatory session recording Kind of Blue, carrying everyone along with him, with complete confidence in his leadership and the expectation that he will bring them to the place where they have to be.’ Threading the novel’s intricate byways, enjoying the journey for its own sake, we do indeed finish up where we have to be – perhaps registering that, as the Jew of Assen remarks, the crooked path is often the only way to the end.” —Jem Poster, The Guardian, February 13, 2009

The novel, originally published in Dutch under the title Dis, was awarded the Ferdinand Bordewijk Prize for the best Dutch novel in 2007. See the author’s page here.