I fear I didn’t give Pieter Hepp his due in Tuesday’s post. He’s much creepier than I gave him credit for: this you should know. He really does break into the basements of his critics’ minds and root around, unburdened by any sense of shame. This is not simply a case of the author reading his critic’s reviews closely; Hepp reads their lives. He attempts to get under their skin, to crawl around in their subconscious: to write something that will touch them in the depths of their very souls. Hepp delves: he really delves. He means not to merely please their intellectual faculties. He means to go much further than this; to complete them with his prose; to answer the questions they were afraid to pose.
This raises issues, some of them ethical and/or legal. How does Hepp go about his work? Certainly he has no concept of boundaries. Stalking is not beyond him; nor breaking into people’s houses, going through their rubbish, tapping phone calls, contacting close friends and the like. This is a writer that will stop at nothing to create what he perceives as a true, honest piece of art.
What do his victims think? Surely they condone his peculiar practices, however pretty his prose? Actually, no. Strangely, they all seem willing to forgive him. One critic, Sophia Lechstein, was followed by Hepp for days. It was, she said ‘a traumatic experience’ that ‘drove her to the edge’. She was, she wrote, ‘close to reporting him’. What stopped her? ‘The book,’ she says, ‘was simply too good. It touched me too deeply. How could I criticise the man after this?’ Others took a similar line. Karl Kupser (of Bruges Times) felt that ‘Hepp crossed the line, over and over again. But what he came back with was so moving, so true, that one couldn’t bring oneself to get in his way. I hesitate to say that some people should be allowed to break the law, but Pieter Hepp is someone to whom I’d grant perpetual leniency. Just look at the product. You simply can’t argue with the product’.
Unless, of course, you can. Which, on the whole, we do. Certainly, what I’ve seen of Hepp’s work makes a mockery of Kupser’s claim. In my opinion, Hepp should be stopped right now – at least before he starts stalking me (and before he starts making me think that stalking me is fine, which it clearly isn’t). Is he worth it? I’m not sure I want to find out; not sure I’m willing to sacrifice my soul for the sake of a good european novel.
Hmm. That doesn’t sound like me…