Friday 27 January 2023

A modern Dutch classic: The Dinner

A classic of modern Dutch literature, and a best seller at both home and in the US, The Dinner by Herman Koch explores what families will do to protect their own.

The novel, published in English in 2012, follows four main characters during a single summer evening’s dinner. A former history teacher, Paul and his wife, Claire meet Paul’s brother, politician Serge and his wife Babette for a meal. The restaurant in the book is not specified but it is rumoured to be de Kas in Amsterdam.

During the meal – with the chapters entitled ‘aperitif’, ‘main course’ and so-on – it transpires that each couple has a 15-year-old son and the boys have committed a terrible act. So what will the parents do?

Through a series of flashbacks, the dinner conversation also provides a good backdrop of how this family has arrived at his moment and despite the limited action, the book keeps the reader intrigued and engaged.


Koch does an excellent job creating a dinner party of characters who are all detestable although during the course of the book their relationships to one another makes the reader occasionally feel pity for them.

The Dinner is a quick, uncomplicated and entertaining read – perfect for a holiday or lazy day on the sofa. It is not an easy book to put down.

The success in print led to three separate films, most recently a version staring Richard Gere and Chloë Sevigny, but none of the adaptations were particularly well received.

The Dinner was translated into English by Sam Garrett, who also translated The Evenings.

Buy this book

Thank you for donating to

The team would like to thank all the generous readers who have made a donation. has been free for 16 years, but without the financial backing of our readers, we would not be able to provide you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch. Your contributions make this possible.

If you have not yet made a donation, but would like to, you can do so via Ideal, credit card or Paypal.