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Cheese [Paperback]

Willem Elsschot , Paul Vincent
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

20 Feb 2003
Cheese is a gentle, satirical fable of capitalism and wealth. A clerk in Antwerp suddenly becomes the chief agent in Belgium and Luxembourg for this red-rinded Dutch delight and is saddled with 370 cases containing ten thousand full-cream cheeses. But he has no idea how to run a business, or how to sell his goods, and he doesn't even like cheese. Steeped in the atmosphere of the 1930s, in a world full of smart operators and and failed businessmen, Cheese gracefully incorporates the rigid class divisions of the time and a man's obsession with status. It is as relevant in our age of Internet investors and dot.com failures as it was when it was written.


Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Granta Books; New edition edition (20 Feb 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1862075565
  • ISBN-13: 978-1862075566
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 705,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

""Willem Elsscbot (1882-1960), whose real name was Alfons de Ridder, was the Dutch Italo Svevo: an advertising executive whose rueful comic novels dramatized the plight of the 'little man' in a busy world with a rare combination of comedy and pathos. The protagonist here is Frans Laarmans, a nondescript shipping clerk whose promotion to European agent for his Antwerp firm's Edam cheese plunges him into a nightmare of obligation and bureaucratic complexity. As Laarmans frets and panics, hundreds of wheels of Edam sit, stink-ripening into an ingenious metaphor for the burdens imposed by their reluctant possessor's frenzied pursuit of status and security. A masterpiece...and one that's enormous fun to read."

From the Back Cover

A delicious satire about business, greed, ambition and cheese - Edam's great moment in world literature.

Frans Laarmans is a humble shipping clerk. One day he is suddenly elevated to the position of chief agent for a Dutch cheese company, with responsibility for Belgium and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Thrilled at the change in his status, he goes on leave and sets up an office at home. He takes delivery of ten thousand full-cream Edams.

But running a business is not as straightforward as he thought. As the bulk of the twenty tons of cheese sits in storage, crates and crates of it, it starts to haunt him. And when his employer, the brusque Mr Hornstra, wires him to say he is coming to Antwerp to settle the first accounts, Laarmans begins to panic...

Cheese is a comic classic in Holland and Belgium - the equivalent of Three Men In A Boat or Diary Of A Nobody. It is a delightful period piece, but also timeless in its skewering of the pretensions and pomposity of businessmen, as relevant in an age of dot.com failures as it was when it was written. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
I'm writing to you again at last because great things are about to happen, and it's all Mr van Schoonbeke's doing. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The tragi-comic little man of business 23 Jun 2008
By Sofia
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Set in the early 1930s, Cheese is the story of Frans Laarmans' sudden foray into the cheese import business courtesy of a enigmatic, wealthy mentor Mr van Schoonbeke. Simply written as Laarmans' account, it is a moving fable of the perils of idolising the wealth and status of others.

Laarmans, a shipping clerk, takes up the sudden opportunity following the death of his mother, to import Edam cheese to Belgium and the Grand Duchy. However, as a shipping clerk, he has absolutely no experience of business, no help and plenty of people (family and new wealthy friends) observing his progress. He doesn't even like cheese and the comic potential is all too evident, but at times Laarmans' naivity and inexperience is so toe-curlingly painful that it's hard to keep reading.

Both funny and moving, Cheese is a little book with a lot to say about status and that old lesson of the bird in the hand being worth two in the bush.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Work of Genius 2 Oct 2007
Format:Paperback
If you have any interest in either cheese or the comic form, buy and read this unknown (in English anyway) work of genius. Hilarious and poignant.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delectable! 14 Sep 2002
By stackofbooks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Willem Elsschot was the pseudonym of Alfons De Ridder, who is widely considered a giant in Flemish literature. All of his works are very concise and "Cheese" is no different.
Within a mere 126 pages, Elsschot humorously recounts the tale of Frans Laarmans, an ordinary clerk, who tries his hand vainly at the cheese business. Laarmans is a clerk with General Marine and Shipbuilding Company and is quite content to plod along until a friend prods him to delve into the cheese business. What follows is a wonderfully wry and funny look at business. Larmaans is quite unsure about what to do when ten thousand wheels of the red-rinded Edam cheeses arrive at his doorstep. He knows he has to sell them all, but would rather first set up his office with a proper desk and typewriter. In the end, his business collapses predictably, but Laarman's failure saddens the reader. One feels for the shy clerk right from the beginning to the end.
Elsschot had a wonderful gift for telling a story in just a few pages and "Cheese" is a wonderful example of it. I was tempted to read more by the author but sadly found out that most of the rest of his work is out of print. Special thanks then to Granta Books for republishing this one.
Other pluses for the book are the bright red jacket, the price, and the crisp writing style. I finished the book in one sitting at the beach.
"Cheese" is just as delectable as the full-cream Edams featured in it. Dig in!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Charming Comic Novel 28 April 2002
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I wish more people knew about this book; I guess it doesn't help that its title makes it impossible to search for amongst the "cooking with cheese" books and what-not. This is witty little novel about the ups and downs (mostly downs) or someone attempting to start their own business. Very wry and well observed. It's not roar-out loud type of humor, but it will make you smile and nod in recognition -- and sometimes that's exactly the kind of humor you need.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious 1 May 2002
By villekulla - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I cannot remember the last time a book made me laugh out loud. In public. The self-deprecating flavor of the humor in this chronicle of an inept businessman is somewhere between Jerome K. Jerome and Jacques Tati. Highly recommended escapist, absurdist fun. Also for lovers of all things Belgian: Harry Pearson's comic travelogue "A Tall Man in a Low Land," which brings the 1933 Belgium of "Cheese" into the present.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'm still chortling 15 April 2006
By PamR - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I agree with the other posts. This is a truly delightful book. I picked up a copy when I was in Amsterdam, and laughed through my plane ride home. The satire has broad implications and is as fresh today as when it was written.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charming 1 May 2002
By villekulla - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I cannot remember the last time a book made me laugh out loud. In public. The self-deprecating flavor of the humor in this chronicle of an inept businessman is somewhere between Jerome K. Jerome and Jacques Tati. Highly recommended escapist, absurdist fun. Also for lovers of all things Belgian: Harry Pearson's comic travelogue "A Tall Man in a Low Land," which brings the 1933 Belgium of "Cheese" into the present.
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