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Archive 2021 Authors > 2018 July: Willem Elsschot's Kaas (Cheese)

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message 1: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
Alphonsus Josephus de Ridder (7 May 1882 – 31 May 1960), was a Belgian writer and poet who wrote under the pseudonym Willem Elsschot (pronounced [ˈʋɪləm ˈɛlsxɔt]). A number of his works have been translated into English. Elsschot wrote down his story soberly and businesslike, but also humorously. He uses short sentences and makes short chapters. In the beginning it takes some getting used to the somewhat older Flemish words, but after a few pages you are completely absorbed.

Cheese is the story of the simple Antwerp office clerk Frans Laarmans, who decides to start an agency in Edam cheese from one day to the next. Not because he loves cheese or financially, but to raise some sports on the social ladder. 126 pages


message 2: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
I will be starting this probably this weekend. Just have to finish reading Twelve Years a Slave.

Anyone else in?


message 3: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments I plan to start this sometime after I finish Villete, along with the Makioka Sisters and Tess.
In looking for the Cheese Discussion Thread I first tried the Currently Reading Section at the top, clicking on the More Current Reads and found 11 books listed, none of which were Cheese. Last month Villette was not on the currently reading list so I presume we don't list the Author of the Month read with the other reads, maybe because the choice is up in the air until determined by the poll.
I know where to find the current discussion for the Author of the Month read but it may be harder for a newer or interested non-member to find that our group is reading Cheese.


message 4: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
Thanks for the heads up Brian!
I will let Rafael know. He takes care of the Groups Bookshelves and currently reading section.


message 5: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments I just started Cheese this morning and I'm already half way through the 144 pages. There are easy quick sentences and, so far, I have no problem appreciating the humor. The book often makes me smile. Light and enjoyable.
I am reading the Sander Berg translation rather than the Paul Vincent one mainly because it was what was available new on Amazon.
I will now turn back to my I-Pad read, Charlotte Bronte's Villette, so no matter which book I pick up - I'm in Belgium!


message 6: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments I just watched a Belgian woman upset last year's Wimbledon Champion. Belgium is in the final 8 of the World Cup, And I am currently reading 2 NTLTRC books set in Belgium.
I guess I now know what kind of waffle to order when we go out for breakfast on my wife's B-day tomorrow.


message 7: by Alicia (new)

Alicia Riley | 424 comments Brian wrote: "I just watched a Belgian woman upset last year's Wimbledon Champion. Belgium is in the final 8 of the World Cup, And I am currently reading 2 NTLTRC books set in Belgium.
I guess I now know what k..."


Happy Birthday to your wife.


message 8: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments Thanks, Alicia. Today is our 38th anniversary so its out for both breakfast and fancy dancy dinner tonite. I'm not neglecting her, I'm only posting while she's doing embroidery items for our Columbus-based son's on-line business.
Yes, July 4, 5 and 6 are all celebratory days at our place.


message 9: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
Fireworks for three days straight! Who hoo!

Happy Birthday Mrs Brian!


message 10: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8939 comments Mod
Happy Anniversary as well! 🥂


message 11: by Brian E (last edited Jul 05, 2018 02:03PM) (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments Thanks. If the 25th is silver, the 50th gold, the 38th Wedding Anniversary must be Cheese, since I have finished it in one day, while my wife embroidered.
My wife understands and accepts my avid reading, though. For our 1st anniversary, Paper, she gave me a first edition of Thomas Hardy's The Well-Beloved


message 12: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8939 comments Mod
Fantastic present, Brian.


message 13: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments NO SPOILERS Cheese is a light. entertainingly pleasant read that took me a little over 2 hours. It was actually less than the 144 pages, with large print and blank pages between many chapters. I had read some criticism that you lose some of the humor in translation. Of course, maybe I don't know what I missed, but I never felt like I was not getting something.


message 14: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
Oh I cannot wait to start this read!


message 15: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
Cheese so my edition is actually a UK edition. Appeared to be brand new (purchased used) not even cracked open. So I found a note from 'Grandma' to her Grandson. "I know you do not like to read, but he is an Author from our country" so obviously the Grandson didn't read it. Sad :(


message 16: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
Laarmans's mother is described as Senile and Dying.

In a letter he (narrator) states 'I should tell you that my mother has died. She was old, very old. She wasn't really ill, just thoroughly worn out.'

I had to giggle a little at that. Poor thing just worn out!

The Mother has what I think is Alzheimer's, so they give her menial tasks to keep her busy. Peeling and a plucking!

It is reading rather quickly as Brian stated and humor filled.


message 17: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
So mother is dying and Laarman has a hard time showing any feelings. He states do I fake tears or sob out loud?! No emotion. :(


message 18: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (last edited Jul 11, 2018 08:07PM) (new)

Rosemarie | 8939 comments Mod
I have not been able to get a hold of a copy of cheese, so I read the only book that the library had in open circulation. The English title is Will o' the Wisp. I enjoyed it. It begins on a rainy night in Antwerp. Three sailors ask for directions to the home of the mysterious Maria van Dam, written on the back of a cigarette packet. The story begins with the search and ends up showing the meaning of friendship.
I read it in Dutch- Het dwaallicht.


message 19: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
Sounds like a nice read Rosemarie!


message 20: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8939 comments Mod
It was a nice read. I had no idea at the beginning that it would be a "feel good" book.


message 21: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
Cheese was the only one available for me at the time! Funny.


message 22: by Suki (last edited Jul 19, 2018 02:26AM) (new)

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 89 comments My copy of Cheese finally arrived today, and I just started reading it. The first chapter almost killed me.

(view spoiler)


message 23: by Brian E (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments Suki, while humor can come be derived from some painful human experience, I'm sorry it brought you only pain this time. My mother-in-law has Alzheimer's and we are now in the middle of changing care facilities for her. Just the other day, my wife and her sister were crying because they admitted to each other they were praying that she didn't live much longer - for her sake, and for theirs' too.

I don't know how you cared for your Mom at home for 7 years. We couldn't do it. With the fear of wandering, you're like a guard of a prisoner - except that you are the one giving up your freedom.

Please take care of yourself and I hope you can enjoy the rest of the book. Look for the joy where you can.


message 24: by Rosemarie, Northern Roaming Scholar (new)

Rosemarie | 8939 comments Mod
My mother had Alzheimers too and was in a wonderful nursing home for 14 years. It was a relief to have her in a safe environment.
One of my friends also had a mother with Alzheimers. She called her condition "The Long Goodbye", which is an apt description.
It may seem odd, but you really need a sense of humour to deal with a loved one suffering from that disease so that you don't get depressed.
I admire all caregivers. To me they are true heroes.


message 25: by Brian E (last edited Jul 19, 2018 11:26AM) (new)

Brian E Reynolds | 4008 comments The "Long Goodbye." I really like that. My older brother had glioblastoma and, due to 2 brain surgeries, had a bit of brain damage for one year before passing away. It also made him less aware of, or at least concerned for, his imminent death.
His off behavior and thought processes made us sad that he wasn't the same person, but it was also good- for us, at least - as we spent the year getting used to not having him in our life. No abrupt pulling of the bandage. He was such a generous person I'll always think he did it for us.

Boy, who'd have thought Cheese could inspire such thoughts? I'd expect it more in my Tess of the D'Urbervilles discussions,


message 26: by Suki (new)

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 89 comments Thanks for the kind words, Rosemarie and Brian.

The first couple of chapters started out pretty heavy, then we moved on to Frans' life. As the book went on, the first two chapters didn't seem to match the rest of the story at all; their main purpose seems to be to build up what an ineffectual character Frans is in his family, his social group, his job, and his life in general, and how important his image is to him. I can't help thinking that Frans may have had a lot more success in his cheese business if he had included his wife in the company-- she seems to be a lot more on the ball than he realizes or is willing to admit.


message 27: by Suki (new)

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 89 comments Rosemarie wrote: "My mother had Alzheimers too and was in a wonderful nursing home for 14 years. It was a relief to have her in a safe environment.
One of my friends also had a mother with Alzheimers. She called her..."


"The Long Goodbye" is an excellent description of Alzheimer's. Every time I thought I had reconciled myself to Mom's condition, her real self would flash through, and the sense of loss would take over again. I am sorry that you went through that with your Mom. It is definitely a relief to know that she is in a safe environment, and not having the responsibility for her safety all on my shoulders.


message 28: by Suki (last edited Jul 20, 2018 05:29PM) (new)

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 89 comments Brian wrote: "The "Long Goodbye." I really like that. My older brother had glioblastoma and, due to 2 brain surgeries, had a bit of brain damage for one year before passing away. It also made him less aware of, ..."

Brian, I am so sorry about your wife and mother-in-law. It is a good thing to have a long time to say goodbye and to get used to the idea of loss, but I think that the healing takes longer, somehow. My Dad died very suddenly, and while it was extremely painful, it was a (for want of a better word) more pure grief; with Mom, I constantly have the nagging guilt of feeling as if I could/should have done more, even though I know that I honestly did all I could.

Having said all that, I know that the humor will come with time. :-)


message 29: by Lesle, Appalachain Bibliophile (new)

Lesle | 6286 comments Mod
Still trying to read this one Anetq!


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