Excerpt from The Dinner by Herman Koch, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Dinner

by Herman Koch

The Dinner
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 2013, 304 pages
    Oct 2013, 304 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Tomp

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

I picked up his cell phone, a brand-new black Samsung, and slid it open. I didn't know his pin code; if the phone was locked I wouldn't be able to do a thing, but the screen lit up almost right away with a fuzzy photo of the Nike swoosh, probably on one of his own clothes: his shoes, or the black knit cap he always wore, even at summertime temperatures and indoors, pulled down just above his eyes.

I scrolled down through the menu, which was roughly the same as the one on my own phone, a Samsung too, but six months old and therefore already hopelessly obsolete. I clicked on My Files and then on Videos. Sooner than expected, I found what I was looking for.

I looked and felt my head gradually grow cold. It was the sort of coldness you feel when you take too big a bite from an ice-cream cone or sip too greedily from an ice-cold drink.

The kind of coldness that hurt—from the inside out. I looked again, and then I kept looking: there was more, I saw, but how much more was hard to say.


Michel's voice came from downstairs, but then I heard him coming up the stairs. I snapped shut the slide on the phone and put it back on his desk.


It was too late to hurry into our bedroom, to take a shirt or jacket out of the closet and pose with it in front of the mirror; my only option was to come out of Michel's own room as casually and believably as possible—as though I'd been looking for something.

As though I'd been looking for him.

"Dad." He had stopped at the top of the stairs and was looking past me, into his room. Then he looked at me. He was wearing his Nike cap; his black iPod nano dangled from a cord at his chest, and a set of headphones was slung around his neck. You had to give him credit—fashion and status didn't interest him. After only a few weeks, he had replaced the white earbuds with a standard set of headphones, because the sound was better.

Happy families are all alike: that popped into my mind for the first time that evening.

"I was looking for . . ." I began. "I was wondering where you were."

Michel had almost died at birth. Even these days I often thought back on that blue, crumpled little body lying in the incubator just after the caesarean. That he was here was nothing less than a gift—that was happiness too.

"I was patching my tire," he said. "That's what I wanted to ask you. Do you know if we've got valves somewhere?"

"Valves," I repeated. I'm not the kind of person who ever fixes a flat tire, who would even consider it. But my son—in the face of all evidence—still believed in a different version of his father, a version who knew where the valves were.

"What were you doing up here?" he asked suddenly. "You said you were looking for me. Why were you looking for me?"

I looked at him; I looked into the clear eyes beneath the black cap, the honest eyes that, I'd always told myself, formed a not-insignificant part of our happiness.

"Oh, nothing," I said. "I was just looking for you."


Of course they weren't there yet.

Without revealing too much about the location, I can say that the restaurant was hidden from the street by a row of trees.

We were half an hour late already, and as we crossed the gravel path to the entrance, lit on both sides by electric torches, my wife and I discussed the possibility that for once, just this once, it might be we and not the Lohmans who arrived last.

"Want to bet?" I said.

"Why should I?" Claire said. "I'm telling you: they're not there."

A girl in a black T-shirt and a black floor-length pinafore took our coats. Another girl, in the same black outfit, was flipping through the reservations book lying open on a lectern.

Excerpted from The Dinner by Herman Koch. Copyright © 2013 by Herman Koch. Excerpted by permission of Hogarth Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Stalin's Daughter
    by Rosemary Sullivan
    "There is something fatal about my life. You can't regret your fate, though I do regret my ...
  • Book Jacket: A Certain Age
    A Certain Age
    by Beatriz Williams
    Lovers of high-society gossip, there's a new set of players in town. A good 20 out of 23 of our...
  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson

    "Starred Review. Sensitive, beautifully precise prose. Highly recommended." - PW

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Secret Language of Stones
    by M. J. Rose

    "A fantastic historical tale of war, love, loss and intrigue."
    – Melanie Benjamin

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
by Kate Bolick

A bold, original, moving book that will inspire fanatical devotion and ignite debate.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!


Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!