Rupert: A Confession – Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer, (Translated from the Dutch by Michele Hutchison )

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“She was my martyrdom, my masochism, and my sugar-sweet, shimmering Mira. She appeared like a reflection before my eyes the first time I saw her, she killed me when she was mine, and she finally brought me back to life when she’d murdered me for good.”

Rupert: A Confession is sordid and perverse, as is its main character. So why was I so drawn in by this novel, even to the point that I couldn’t put it down? Let me back up a bit.

Rupert Dean has been accused of a horrific crime, and is defending himself to the jury—I’m not sure if real or imagined- by explaining his history and how he got to the emotional and physical place he is at now. This monologue reveals that he is delusional, as he asserts how superior he is, like how well he can fight with words, only to then unknowingly reveal the opposite.

An admitted voyeur, he frequented “Sexyland”, a peep show palace. He feels awkward around women, though he has had casual relationships with them when he was younger. This is demonstrated in the following comment:

“I hate men who just casually touch g irls without any so—called ulterior motives. It’s an  arresting demonstration of relaxed, whistling worldliness, the kind that feels sorry for       you, all dogmatic smiles because you’re so uptight and inhibited that you think about         fucking whenever you have any physical contact with a woman. But meanwhile, they’re  seducing those girls they’ve just touched in a healthy normal way…”

He finds the love of his life, Mira, but is unable to perform (after all, he admits that he is a spectator, not an actor) . She nicknames him “Rupert the Virgin-slayer” and throughout the book, he has other names for himself, such as “Rupert the Hopelessly Happy” and later “Rupert the Unrescuable”. He details their relationship and their favorite jaunts, but eventually she leaves him. That is when he completely unravels, seeking pleasure elsewhere only to be reminded of Mira and his state of “Miralessness”. This all leads up to a surprise, though logical conclusion.

So again, why would I recommend this book?  I find the study of the “abnormal” aspects of the human psyche fascinating. Pfeiffer builds the tension steadily throughout the book while saturating the story with exquisite and lyrical prose and references to many literary masters.

Author Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer is also a poet, literary critic and Greek scholar. This is his first novel translated into English. I hope that he has many more to come.

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