Marcellus Emants (1848–1923) was a Dutch poet, novelist, and playwright. After coming into a substantial inheritance at the age of twenty-three following the death of his father, he threw over his law studies and dedicated his life to travel and literature. Emants had little contact with his contemporaries, and published his first poems and plays in two literary magazines he co-founded while still at the University of Leiden. He also founded a theater company, where many of his plays—productions that he directed and acted in as well—were performed. In 1904 Emants married the German actress Jenny Kuhn, with whom he had a daughter, Eva Clara Jenny (she subsequently adopted the name Lilith, from the title of an early epic poem by her father). He took a special interest in psychical phenomena and participated, with the physiologist G. A. van Rijnberk, in experiments with the famous medium Eusapia Palladino. Emants died in the Grand Hôtel in Baden, Switzerland.
This story of the debilitating and ultimately murderous ramifications of self-disgust and self-despair looks backward to Dostoyevsky and forward to Simenon. [The narrator], claiming to be unable to keep his dreadful secret, records his confession and leaves it behind as a monument to himself, thereby turning a worthless life into art. —J.M. Coetzee, from the introduction