The Ditch

Herman Koch

Translated by Sam Garrett
Translated by Sam Garrett
11 June 2020
352 pages


Longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award 2021

'Herman Koch has made a career from saying the apparently unsayable.' - Financial Times

When Robert Walter, the popular mayor of Amsterdam, sees his wife toss her head back with laughter while chatting to one of his aldermen at a New Year's reception, he immediately suspects she is cheating on him. Though happily married, he has always wondered why Sylvia, born and raised in a distant country, chose him.

Soon afterwards, a journalist unearths an old photograph of a police officer being beaten up by three Vietnam War protesters, one of whom she claims is Robert. Just as unexpectedly, Robert's ninety-four-year-old father announces that he and his wife would rather end their lives than burden their son with their deteriorating health. Once stable and successful, Robert becomes entangled in his fears and suspicions, consumed by jealousy and paranoia. Nothing is what it seems, or is Robert finally beginning to see the world - and his life - as they are, for the first time?

Written with Herman Koch's trademark originality, playfulness and edge and translated from Dutch, The Ditch is a wildly clever - and guttingly familiar - story of a man whose sadistic skill for undermining himself and his marriage comes to cost him nearly everything.

Herman Koch has made a career from saying the apparently unsayable.
Herman Koch is rapidly becoming one of my favourite writers