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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Rupert: A Confession

by
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Rupert: A Confession



Title: Rupert: A Confession
Author: Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 131 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Rupert: A Confession - US
Rupert: A Confession - UK
Rupert: A Confession - Canada
  • Dutch title: Rupert. Een bekentenis
  • Translated by Michele Hutchison
  • Awarded the 2002 Anton Wachterprijs

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Our Assessment:

B+ : stylish, creepy

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       Rupert: A Confession takes the form of a monologue, a three-day hearing/defense by Rupert as he tries to convince a jury that he did not commit the crime he stands accused of: that he was not responsible for "the tragic events of April 13th". It takes a while for him to get to what those tragic events involved, but it's not hard to guess, at least in general terms -- yes, something very nasty and unpleasant, with a female victim.
       Rupert goes about defending himself in a roundabout way -- offering, among other things, a roundabout tour of the city where the crime took place, and of all that led up to it. Near the end he tells the jury:

Rupert is no fantasist. My account is as real as this city. I've talked as I've taken you with me on a tour of the city past the sites of my memory.
       He also claims not to be a fabulist, but by that point jury and reader have, of course, long had their doubts: Rupert spins a mean tale -- and, for one, the city he describes is a fictional one .....
       Use whatever word you will: Rupert is a voyeur, witness, observer, spectator. He's a passive figure -- indeed, that's his only defense: that he literally is unable to act. (He even admits that there's an act he was unable to perform, and that that was a big part of his problem.) Indeed, his closing argument -- the final words of the book -- are:
     Rupert is a spectator, not an actor. Rupert reads the city in the face of his beloved. Rupert doesn't act. Spectating is the only way to take part. If that's his crime, he pleads guilty.
     The defendant rest his case.
       Rupert: A Confession is a confession of passivity and impotence, an inability to act or interact. Rupert always watches and never does. So he claims and so, for the most part, he seems to have lived.
       No surprise: Rupert was a peepshow-man. He has sexual urges, but no other way or place to satisfy them. Then comes dream-girl Mira, who sounds ... almost too good to be true as she purrs:
I'll indulge you, adore you, love you, and everything in between.
       Yes: "She was my longing become flesh" -- and yet, and yet .....
       Rupert may be something of a fabulist, but he's willing to acknowledge some truths. He admits that things don't go as they should with Mira, for example; he admits to his own rather embarrassing failures. They're together for quite a while, but not entirely as either of them would like. Eventually, Mira dumps Rupert; no surprise that Rupert doesn't take that well: the spectator becomes the stalker. But the weak-willed passive figure remains true to form .....
       What's riveting about Rupert's account is his self-assuredness. Yes, he often speaks of 'Rupert' in the third person, an abstraction he's removed from -- but then Rupert is, after all, the ultimate 'I am camera'. It's a fascinating split-personality on display here -- and some ... perversely fine writing.
       A typical incidental scene -- when some people occupy his favorite table at a café -- goes:
     Members of the jury, you'll be able to muster some understanding for the fact that I wanted to subject them to terrible torture, to break off those vulgar painted nails one by one with a very small, nasty set of pliers, those walrus bitches with their disgusting chitchat and sea cow asses sitting at my table and ordering a second cappuccino and definitely taking another hour and a half over it. But Rupert knew how to maintain his dignity. He straightened his back, looked around with a gaze that projected self-control, a self-control that was the fruit of years mastering a secret deadly, eastern martial art. He moved the ashtray two centimeters to the left, to bring a balanced composition of the contents of his table, and rolled a first rate cigarette with great skill. With a virtuosic gesture he flipped his zippo along it. He inhaled deeply, like a French film star in black and white, and turned his attention to higher matters.
       He dreams of dramatic action, but the best he can do is slide the ashtray over slightly on his table, or flick his lighter: he remains the pathetic impotent, the voyeur who can not take any real action.
       Of course the question builds up over the course of his narrative: does all that pent up pressure finally cause him to blow ?
       Cleverly, artfully done, Rupert: A Confession is no pleasant read, but an oddly seductive one. Well worthwhile.

- M.A.Orthofer, 22 May 2009

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Links:

Rupert: A Confession: Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Dutch literature at the complete review
  • Other books from Open Letter under review

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer was born in 1968.

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© 2009 the complete review

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