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A Posthumous Confessionby Marcellus Emants
Synopses & Reviews
Termeer, the narrator of A Posthumous Confession, is a twisted man and a troubled one. The emotionally stunted son of a cold, forbidding, and hypocritical father, Termeer has only succeeded in living up to his parents’ low expectations when, to his own and others’ astonishment, he finds himself wooing a beautiful and gifted woman—a woman whose love he wins. But instead of finding happiness in marriage, Termeer discovers it to be a new source of self-hatred, hatred that he turns upon his wife and child. And when he becomes caught up in an affair with a woman as demanding as his own self-loathing, he is driven to murder.
What is the self, and how does it evade or come to terms with itself? What can make it go permanently, lethally wrong? Marcellus Emants’s grueling and gripping novel—a late-nineteenth-century tour de force of psychological penetration—is a lacerating exposition of the logic of identity that looks backward to Dostoyevsky, forward to Simenon, and beyond to the confessional literature, whether fiction or fact, of our own day.
A Posthumous Confession is narrated by Termeer, a deeply frustrated man who persuades himself that only in murder can he find ultimate satisfaction. Emotionally stunted, thanks to his upbringing by forbidding and condemning parentsthey never miss a chance to remind him that he is a worthless mediocrityTermeer is rapidly living up to their low expectations when, to his own and others astonishment, he successfully woos a beautiful and gifted woman. But instead of finding happiness in his marriage, he discovers it to be a new source of self-hatred, hatred that he directs at his innocent wife and child. And when he becomes caught up in an affair with a woman as demanding as his own self-loathing, Termeer murders his wife.
What is the self? What makes it go permanently, murderously wrong? Marcellus Emantss lacerating exploration of this age-old tragic question looks backward to Dostoyevsky and forward to Simenon, and beyond that to the memoirs of our own day.
About the Author
Marcellus Emants (1848–1923) was a Dutch poet, novelist, and playwright. After coming into a substantial inheritance at the age of twenty-three following the death of his father, he threw over his law studies and dedicated his life to travel and literature. Emants had little contact with his contemporaries, and published his first poems and plays in two literary magazines he co-founded while still at the University of Leiden. He also founded a theater company, where many of his plays—productions that he directed and acted in as well—were performed. In 1904 Emants married the German actress Jenny Kuhn, with whom he had a daughter, Eva Clara Jenny (she subsequently adopted the name Lilith, from the title of an early epic poem by her father). He took a special interest in psychical phenomena and participated, with the physiologist G. A. van Rijnberk, in experiments with the famous medium Eusapia Palladino. Emants died in the Grand Hôtel in Baden, Switzerland.
J.M. Coetzee, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003, is currently a visiting professor of humanities at the University of Adelaide. His newest book, Summertime, was published in 2009.
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