A black, funny novel about a once respectable writer on the make. Once a literary novelist of some respectability, now brought low by the double insult of obscurity and crippling debt, Robert G. Mehlman is a man in need of money and recognition, fast. It is, of course, to cookery writing that he turns. A practised decadent, a habitual spendthrift and a serial womaniser, he has, ostensibly, all the right qualities. But the path to fame is never a smooth one. Phantom Pain consists largely of the bitterly funny but unpublished manuscript of Mehlman's autobiography. In it, he tells the parallel stories of his decaying marriage and his puzzling affair with a woman he meets by chance and who accompanies him on the road. Their journey takes them on a chaffeur-driven, midnight run from New York to Atlantic City where they gamble away most of Mehlman's remaining funds and then north, to Albany, where his unlikely salvation, and the inspiration for his book Polish-Jewish Cuisine in 69 Recipes, lie. Framed by a son's account of his famous father, this novel-within-a-novel is a hilariously black account of a writer's fall and his subsequent rise.
Phantom Pain has all the characteristic mixture of slapstick and dark despair that has made Arnon Grunberg one of the most interesting, certainly the funniest, and arguably the best Dutch writer working today.
Arnon Grunberg was born in Amsterdam in 1971. He was kicked out of school at seventeen and started his own publishing company, specializing in non-Aryan German literature, at the age of nineteen. His first novel, Blue Mondays, written at the age of twenty-three, became a bestseller in Europe, won the Anton Wachter Prize. His second novel, Silent Extras was similarly successful, and Phantom Pain, his third, won the AKO Prize, the Dutch Booker Prize. Writing under the name Marek van der Jagt, Grunberg published The History of My Baldness, which won him the Anton Wachter Prize for the second time, a prize for the best d-but novel of the last two years. He is the only novelist in the history of this prize to have won it twice. Arnon Grunberg lives in New York City.