Flemish author Peter Terrin has been called a master of suspense with a style reminiscent of Kafka. In his Radio Books story, an old telephone takes on a sinister presence for a man plagued with calls from a telemarketer.
Peter Terrin was born in 1968 and studied at the University of Ghent. In 1996 he won a short story competition and two years later made his official literary debut with a collection of stories called ‘De Code’ (The Code.)
With themes of alienation and psychological oppression, his work has been compared to French writer Albert Camus and Dutch author Willem Frederik Hermans. In 2001 he published his first novel ‘Kras’(Crass) in which three elderly men rape the lively young cleaning lady of their apartment block and then flee.
In his 2004 novel ‘Vrouwen en kinderen eerst’ (Women and Children First), a team hired to dismantle a tile production line in an abandoned factory abroad stay in a rundown hotel in Kafkaesque isolation. The transition from a normal life to complete disorder caused by unexpected events is again the theme of his next novel ‘Blanco’ where a man tries to come to terms with the death of his wife during a carjacking.
Terrin’s lastest work – another novel called ‘De bewaker’ (The Guard) and a collection of stories called ‘De bijeneters’ (The Bee-eaters) – continues to reinforce his reputation as a literary outside with a flair for sinister details. His contribution for Radio Books makes an excellent introduction to his often nightmarish world.
The recently divorced Frederic Malfait seems unable to discourage increasingly annoying calls from a persistent telemarketer.
“He heard the vehemence in his voice when he told her he wasn’t interested… It was true that he had said three times that he hadn’t got time and that she could ring him again at a different time. It was true that she had been patient. It was all true. But he simply wasn’t interested in the advantages of independent health insurance. That was also true.
The fact that the woman had rung him up four times with great patience didn’t alter that. After a short silence she said that he could at least have the politeness to let her finish. He said that in that case she would just be wasting both their times. He said she should ring someone else. He said ‘Goodbye, Madam’ and put down the receiver.”
‘For the Sake of Peace’ by Peter Terrin was translated by Michael O’Loughlin. The story is read by David Swatling.
The series Radio Books is an initiative of the Flemish-Dutch Huis de Buren in Brussels, in association with the Flemish radio broadcaster Klara and Radio Netherlands Worldwide.