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In accordance with our meta agreement to have topic challenges and a later meta agreement to have topic challenges lasting for two months and overlapping by one month, it is time to announce the May – June 2024 topic challenge.

Based on the number of votes (+5/-2) and the date of the suggestion, the fourth topic challenge fully in 2024 will be:

Cheese by Willem Elsschot


What's a topic challenge?

See the meta posts linked above, and also this main meta post. In short, during May and June 2024 you are invited to read Willem Elsschot's Cheese and ask questions about it.

Participation is not obligatory in any sense, and questions on other works are more than welcome during May and June too; they just won't count as part of this topic challenge.

How can I take part?

By getting hold of Cheese and asking (or answering!) good questions about the novel. Questions about these works should be tagged with , , and other tags as appropriate. We'll keep a list of all such questions in an answer to this meta post.

Below is Tsundoku's presentation of the topic:

Everybody likes cheese, so why not read a novel about it? Cheese (in Dutch: Kaas, 1933) is a novel by the Flemish author Willem Elsschot (1882-1960) in which the main character, Frans Laarmans, a clerk, decides to become a sales agent in cheese. Without spoiling too much, I just want to say that he is out of his depth in this job.

Willem Elsschot wrote several other novels, all of which are relatively short. Cheese is "the most translated Flemish novel ever" (see Flanders Literature, where you can find a sample of the 2002 English translation).

Reviewer Chris Baker wrote,

Cheese is one of the very few comic novels that is able to escape its era and its culture. Though written almost seventy years ago, its situations are as fresh as today's office place.

It's a delectable novel ;-)

What's next?

  • Vote for the next topic challenge (June–July), or propose your own topic!
  • Feel free to edit links into this post if you find some good resources about Cheese or Elsschot available to read online.

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List of all questions posted in this topic challenge

  1. Is the character named Laarmans supposed to be the same person across Elsschot's œuvre? by verbose, 27/05/2024 (85 views, 4 upvotes, 1 answer);
  2. Inconsistency in number of cheeses per box in Elsschot's "Cheese" by verbose, 27/05/2024 (121 view, 4 votes, 1 answer);
  3. What is specifically Dutch about light bulbs? by verbose, 27/05/2024 (HNQ, around 5000 views, 20 upvotes, 1 answer);
  4. What does the expression "Mignon country" refer to in Elsschot's "Cheese"? by Charo, 06/06/2024 (HNQ, 676 view, 7 upvotes, 1 answer);
  5. Why is Laarmans so specific about the address of his representative in Bruges? by Tsundoku, 17/06/2024 (HNQ, 722 views, 7 upvotes, 1 answer);
  6. The Netherlands vs Belgium in Elsschot's Cheese by verbose, 18/06/2024 (46 views, 4 upvotes, no answer);
  7. Class dynamics in Elsschot's Cheese by verbose, 23/06/2024 (22 view, 4 upvotes, no answer);
  8. Is the character named Boorman supposed to be the same person across Elsschot's œuvre? by Tsundoku, 23/06/2024 (HNQ, 110 views, 3 upvotes, 1 answer);

The highest-voted of these is What is specifically Dutch about light bulbs? with a score of 20 at the end of June.

The most viewed is What is specifically Dutch about light bulbs?, with approximately 5000 views by the end of June.

Six questions received an answer (i.e. exactly one answer). All answers were submitted by the same contributor.


Reviews submitted to our Tumblr blog: Willem Elsschot: Cheese — Translated by Sander Berg, 18 June 2024, Tsundoku.

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