Amuse-Bouche, By Arnon Grunberg

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The Independent Culture

Deadpan, offbeat, quirkily comic but steeped in loneliness, these early stories and sketches by the leading Dutch writer (translated by Lisa Friedman and Ron de Klerk) add up to a portrait of the artist as a young vagabond and freeloader.

Some draw in their raw and tender humour on Grunberg's Jewish family background in Amsterdam, peopled with relatives who – like many of these vulnerable oddballs – live "on the periphery of the human race".

Later the wannabe author, who falls dramatically in love with a pizza-parlour waitress but becomes known to staff as the "pimpled pesto eater", knocks around New York: a footloose migrant among so many others.

From the ex-porn star who boasts of being "the richest man in Las Vegas" to film student Khaled, "related to the king of Jordan", his characters – like the narrator – feed off depleting dreams.

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