I’ve only just discovered that Koning died in April this year. Hans Koning (Koningsberger) wrote sparse, hard hitting novels with an economy and insight I hope to achieve in my own writing. He would be near the top of my list of underrated writers. His radical politics probably cost him the chance of successful sales. He was friends with Noam Chomsky and a committed activist.
I found Koning when I bought an old Penguin paperback copy of The Revolutionary from an opshop a few years ago. I was deeply impressed by this short novel of a revolutionary in an unnamed European country who gives all he has for the radical cause and is caught between his attraction to a fellow revolutionary and a rich girl. It is achingly beautiful, just like An American Romance, another Penguin paperback – this one found in a cellar bookshop in Melbourne. This is the saddest love story I have ever read, telling of a couple’s attraction, their marriage and their divorce with such simplicity it made me cry.
I was thinking of writing to Koning last year. But I read an interview with him, and he seemed so grumpy and said he didn’t like anything being published by writers today. I thought how contemptuous he would be of my own novel. So I put it off. And now he’s dead.