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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Last Call

Harry Mulisch

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To purchase Last Call

Title: Last Call
Author: Harry Mulisch
Genre: Novel
Written: 1985
Length: 288 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Last Call - US
Last Call - UK
Last Call - Canada
. Höchste Zeit - Deutschland
  • Translation of Hoogste Tijd -- literally High Time and emphatically not Last Call. The significant words also appear late in the book and Dixon's dubious choice of how to translate them might seem appropriate there. We disagree.
  • Translated by Adrienne Dixon

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Our Assessment:

A- : fine, entertaining and clever work.

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The LA Times . 7/5/1989 Stewart Lindh
The NY Times Book Rev. A- 18/6/1989 Linda Bamber
The New Yorker B+ 24/7/1989 John Updike
The Washington Post . 2/4/1989 Gregory Feeley

  From the Reviews:
  • "The sum of Last Call seems less than its parts. But what parts they are !" - John Updike, The New Yorker

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Told in five acts (with an epilogue) Last Call is very much a theatre novel, cleverly twisting an old idea and adding a completely unexpected punch in conclusion. Uli Bouwmeester, an old cabaret artist of no great distinction, receives an invitation, out of the blue, to play the lead in a production by a theatre group in Amsterdam. The Authors' Theatre is planning a production of one of their authors' (Leo Siderius) new plays -- the Tempest-like Hurricane. (The novel's epigraph is the famous passage from The Tempest, ending We are such stuff / As dreams are made on; and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep.)
       Bouwmeester's wife is dead (which "affected him less" than the disappearance of his dog) and he never had any children. He lives in vague retirement with his sister, simply growing old until the unexpected invitation comes. A morally ambiguous figure, he is revealed to the reader in the course of the book: he is not appealing, but he is (or finally has become) very human. He is a surprisingly varied and realistic character as the layers are revealed.
       The novel follows Bouwmeester as he accepts the part in the play within a play and enters the world of the theatre again. The Authors' Theatre is a relatively small group, now in some financial difficulty, a typical example of the state subsidized small stages of Europe. Mulisch describes the strange theatrical world, both in front of and behind the scenes very well, using it more than merely for the artifice of a narrative frame.
       Elegantly composed, Last Call is both amusing and wistful. Bouwmeester's last chance to shine in the theatrical world he loves is realistically conveyed, with all the ambivalence and mature wisdom of the actor -- and then taken an additional step, as the artist Mulisch makes more of the story than initially appeared possible. Throughout Bouwmeester also plays the role of mentor well, a guide, of sorts, for a younger generation trying to keep their theatre going -- an ambiguous and, one might think, dubious choice to act as guiding hand. Bouwmeester is not a special man, indecisive, not overly ambitious, getting by. In World War II he played for the occupying Nazis and was briefly interred after the war, but even there was not significant enough to be prosecuted. But Mulisch makes him a worthy protagonist, each detail apt and perfect.
       The turn Mulisch takes with the novel to bring it to its conclusion is not entirely unexpected (though aspects of it certainly are), and it is nicely done, balancing poignancy and humor, and wholly satisfying. An elegant novel about aging and about art, we recommend it highly.

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Last Call: Reviews: Harry Mulisch: Other books by Harry Mulisch under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Dutch literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Harry Mulisch was born in 1927. One of the foremost post-war European authors he has written numerous international bestsellers. Ridiculously few of his works are available in English.

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