Publication Date: Apr 30, 2019
A gripping academic novel about deception and self-deception, ambition, the love of history as entertainment, and the hunt for the perfect enemy.
Josip Brik, larger-than-life pop philosopher, Hitler studies expert, and TV historian, has always found himself more attracted to the fictional representation of history than to history itself. When Brik falls from a hotel window in Amsterdam, the number one mourner is Friso de Vos, a young academic who has been Brik’s right-hand man. However, Friso is forced to watch from the sidelines as his countryman Philip de Vries, whom he has never heard of, is interviewed again and again in the newspapers, and even on TV, about “his mentor,” Josip Brik. When a large symposium for historians is organized in Vienna, Friso sees his opportunity to set the record straight and begins to impersonate Philip, with dangerous and hilarious results.
With a playful mix of literary and pop culture references, this novel immerses us in the world of the global intelligentsia, where the truth counts for less than what is said about it. Joost de Vries has written a biting academic satire, an absurd and exceptionally intelligent tale.
Excerpt from The Republic
The Wall Street Journal didn’t mention this Philip de Vries once in its report, which was noticeably shorter and more superficial. The article was accompanied by a large black-and-white portrait photo of Brik, and a smaller one showing a few people standing together a little awkwardly, but with a kind of giggly, conspiratorial air, like a group of school children corralled together for a class photo. In its caption, the Journal identified the class members from left to right: “Walter Chilton, Dean of Cornell University, his wife Liddie Chilton, Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, and Philip de Vries, a student of Brik’s.”
In the photo De Vries was looking slightly away from the camera: he had a long nose that was perfectly eclipsed by his pronounced cheekbones and his big, blue angel-of-death eyes. He was smiling absently, wore a knitted tie, and had a high 1950s forehead and ash- blond hair that stood up effortlessly, as if someone just out of view had directed a wind machine at him with great precision.
Why was he mentioned at all in the caption? His name didn’t appear once in the article. I’d never heard of him. He’d certainly never written anything for The Sleepwalker. He didn’t have a Face-book page (who doesn’t have a Facebook page?) and a Google search threw up only two hits. One was the website of a fraternity, the other of Blondie, a journal of Hitler Studies published by the universities of Groningen and Leuven, for which he’d once written a short piece, a review that didn’t even run to 500 words, of a book that wasn’t even relevant. “Unequal luminaries”? Who on earth knew him? Pippa had to clear this up. She’d been to the memorial service in New York after all. What had he said?
“The Republic reads like a whirlwind…De Vries leaps between literary genres, from mischievous spy novel to biting campus novel.” —De Morgen
“I came across the biggest talent in just about the youngest debut author, in Joost de Vries’s novels Clausewitzand The Republic. Ironic, postmodern, intellectual, in short—highbrow in the way that good literature can (but doesn’t have to) be.” —Arnold Heumakers, NRC Handelsblad
“An uncompromisingly intellectual novel that can just as easily be called a matchless social comedy.” —Knack Focus
“An enjoyable second encounter with a talented author.” —Elsevier