Termeer, the narrator of A Posthumous Confession, is a twisted man and a troubled one. The emotionally stunted son of a cold, forbidding, and hypocritical father, Termeer has only succeeded in living up to his parents’ low expectations when, to his own and others’ astonishment, he finds himself wooing a beautiful and gifted woman—a woman whose love he wins. But instead of finding happiness in marriage, Termeer discovers it to be a new source of self-hatred, hatred that he turns upon his wife and child. And when he becomes caught up in an affair with a woman as demanding as his own self-loathing, he is driven to murder.
What is the self, and how does it evade or come to terms with itself? What can make it go permanently, lethally wrong? Marcellus Emants’s grueling and gripping novel—a late-nineteenth-century tour de force of psychological penetration—is a lacerating exposition of the logic of identity that looks backward to Dostoyevsky, forward to Simenon, and beyond to the confessional literature, whether fiction or fact, of our own day.
Since the time of Rousseau we have seen the growth of the genre of the confessional novel, of which A Posthumous Confession is a singularly pure example. Termeer [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