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HOFFMAN'S HUNGER Paperback – 5 Dec 2007


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Synopsis

Felix Hoffman's hunger is both physical and emotional. A Dutch diplomat with a chequered career behind him, he is now Ambassador in Prague in the late 1980s; his final posting. In Kafka's haunted city, Hoffman desperately feeds his bulimia and spends his insomniac nights studying Spinoza and revisiting the traumas of his past. A child survivor of the Holocaust, Hoffman married and had beloved twin daughters, but a double tragedy has befallen his family; one daughter died as a young girl of leukaemia, the other, who became a heroin addict, has committed suicide.This has wrecked Hoffman's marriage and his life; he has not had one decent night's sleep since the death of his daughter over twenty years ago, and his constant physical hunger reflects his emotional hunger for truth and understanding. When Carla, a Czech double agent, gets into Hoffman's bed, political and emotional mayhem ensues. Hoffman's past and his present predicament are inextricably bound up with the tormented history of Europe over the fifty years since the Second World War. Like Europe, he is at a crossroads, and the signs point to an uncertain future.

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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
A sophisticated novel that is an extraordinary work of articulate fiction 2 Dec. 2007
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A Dutch diplomat who is now an Ambassador in Prague, Felix Hoffman has some serious physical and emotional problems that result in bulimia and insomnia as he studies the writings of Spinoza and obsesses on the traumas from his past. A child survivor of the Holocaust, Hoffman had married and fathered twin daughters. But one daughter died young from leukemia, and the other became a heroin addict and committed suicide. These were tragedies that also wrecked Hoffman's marriage, his life, and have left him vulnerable to a Czech double agent named Carlo. Against an historical background history of Europe from the end of World War II to the late 1980s setting for this riveting novel, author Leon de Winter has deftly created a memorable character whose search for identify that combines the personal and the political. "Hoffman's Hunger" is a sophisticated novel that is an extraordinary work of articulate fiction and highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library fiction collections.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Hedonism of the Soul 13 Aug. 2008
By Gary Severance - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In Hoffman's Hunger a novel published by The Toby Press in 2007, Leon de Winter describes the consequences of faulty reasoning determined by persistent false assumptions for several interesting characters. The translation by Arnold and Erica Pomerans is excellent allowing the reader to experience a hint of Dutch syntax and semantics that helps the reader to understand the perceptions and emotions of the characters. In the novel, Baruch Spinoza's philosophical arguments set the stage for the reader to spot errors of logic and anticipate outcomes of the plot. The exciting story forces the reader to question what the characters actually want, and puzzle over their real desires.

I had immediate empathy with every major player in the novel, but most of all with Felix Hoffman. There does not seem to be anything overtly likable about Felix but he is fascinating. Hoffman and the other characters face physical and emotional pain caused by poor decisions in the past. Most try to reduce the pain that affects them and their loved ones with inappropriately behaviors (eating, drinking, adultery, drugs). Only Felix makes serious attempts to understand his past actions, to reach insight. Spinoza's writing teaches Hoffman that free will does not allow him to escape the past or the determinism of his nature. It can only show him why he acted as he did and what desires persist in the present. Attempting to satisfy his insatiable appetite for food and drink does not help, but reading Spinoza's work does. As a result, he discovers that simply reminiscing during sleepless nights provides no answers. He has to learn to think rationally about his past and present. He has to abandon his habitual irrational cynicism and indifference in order to understand the truth about his own motivation.

This is an outstanding novel and I look forward to reading more of de Winter's work. His realistic writing style and detailed character development remind me of the work of Robert Musil, the 20th Century Austrian novelist. There are interesting parallels between Musil's character Ulrich, a mathematician, in The Man Without Qualities (1952, 1978) and Felix Hoffman a diplomat in de Winter's novel. Both characters are charismatic but unsatisfied with their career roles and personal relationships. Both are attempting to find some truths in their lives without falling back on ready-made conclusions based on religious faith. How can we ever understand the relative importance of ideas, actions, and emotions in individual lives when there is no meaningful starting point? Both Ulrich and Felix discover the origin of their own motivation in a concept that is both rational and irrational, that includes reality and imagination, hedonism and altruism.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A great book 22 Dec. 1999
By J. van Bavel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In this book, a lot of text from the famous Dutch Philosopher, Baruch de Spinoza, is written. Leon de Winter combines his words with the eating sessions of a Dutch diplomat. The contrast has a great impact on the reader. Besides that, it is also a spy-story with a lot of suspense.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A great book 22 Dec. 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In this book, a lot of text from the famous Dutch Philosopher, Baruch de Spinoza, is written. Leon de Winter combines his words with the eating sessions of a Dutch diplomat. The contrast has a great impact on the reader. Besides that, it is also a spy-story with a lot of suspense.
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