The second half of the novel begins two years later with Arnon, now aged 19, having been expelled from school, working in a dead-end office job and helping to look after his father who has been incapacitated by a stroke. He devotes most of his energy to visits to prostitutes which, while described in clinical detail, are never cold. On the contrary, Grunberg the writer treats the women with the same courtesy in his pages that Grunberg the punter does in life. The encounters are both homely and full of telling incongruities, such as the brothel where he watches cartoons with one of the girls and the part-Jewish prostitute who interrupts her frottage to tell him of her grandfather who never returned from the camps.
Blue Mondays is extraordinary for its very ordinariness. It is a cry of despair which never raises its voice. Grunberg's writing is not literary; on the rare occasion that he attempts an analogy (such as the old prostitute's breasts "which drooped like wilting flowers") the effect is self-conscious and secondhand. The book is striking for its authenticity of emotion rather than its felicities of style.
In its deadpan acceptance of the most off-beat behaviour, the writing is often very funny. Its humour, self-revelation, degradations and drunkenness make Blue Mondays seem like a much younger version of Jeffrey Bernard's "Low Life" column.
Secker and Warburg, pounds 9.99.