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The Cave [Paperback]

Tim Krabbé , Sam Garrett
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 16 2003
A stunning psychological thriller about friship, drugs, and murder from the author of The Vanishing.

Egon Wagter and Axel van de Graaf met when they were both fourteen and on vacation in Belgium. Axel is fascinating, filled with an amoral energy by which the more prudent, less adventurous Egon is both mesmerized and repelled. Even as a teen, Axel has a strange power over those around him. He defies authority, seduces women, breaks the law. Axel chooses Egon as a friend, a friendship that somehow ures over time and ends up determining Egon's fate.

During his university studies, Egon frequents Axel's house in Amsterdam, where there is a party every night and women fill the rooms. Though Egon chooses geology over Axel's life of avarice and drug dealing, he remains intrigued by his friend's conviction that the only law that counts is the law he makes himself. Egon believes that Axel is a demonic figure who tempts others only because he knows they want to be tempted. By the time he is in his forties, Egon finds himself divorced and with few professional prospects. He turns for help to Axel, who sends him to Ratanakiri, a fictional country in Southeast Asia. Axel gives Egon a suitcase to deliver-and Egon never returns.

Utterly compelling and resonant, The Cave is an unforgettable story of betrayal in the spirit of Tim Krabbé's remarkable first novel, The Vanishing.

Product Details

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Krabb , a Dutch writer living in Amsterdam, published a sophisticated horror novel, The Golden Egg, seven years ago, which was made into a movie, The Vanishing. His second novel is likewise a cleverly wrought tale of death and suspense, but it's one that falls outside the ordinary formulas of horror or suspense fiction. It tells the psychologically fraught story of three individuals who meet as adolescents and whose lives intertwine in various ways. The linchpin of the tale is Axel van de Graaf, who from childhood is the kind of unpleasantly charismatic figure who attracts people against their will and better judgment. As a child, Axel is an independent daredevil; as an adult, he becomes successful in the violent underworld of international drug smuggling. He befriends the novel's protagonist, Egon Wagter, at summer camp in Belgium. It's a strange relationship from the outset: Axel seems to love and admire Egon, who is at best boring and unimaginative. Egon is drawn into orbit around Axel at camp, and in later life is unable to break loose. Eventually, Egon's modest life falls apart. His wife leaves him (she also once was drawn to Axel's more vivid existence), and he proves to be a failure as a geologist. When the opportunity for adventure presents itself, he eagerly seizes the chance to travel to South America with a scientific expedition. But he needs money to participate, so Axel agrees to let humdrum Egon act as a drug courier to a Southeast Asian country, where capital punishment for drug offenses is common. There Egon meets an American woman to whom he is as spookily drawn as he has always been drawn to Axel. Her story unfolds from the novel's midpoint onward, and in a surprising finish, Krabb draws the strands of his tale together in the novel's eponymous cave. This writer's art is one of indirection and understatement. His fine, spare prose weaves a seamless web of vividly imagined reality, and his grasp of daily life in Holland, Massachusetts and Southeast Asia is completely persuasive a tribute no doubt in part to the work of his translator. (Oct.) FYI: A film version of The Cave will be released in November.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Can a single encounter with evil poison an entire life? Dutch writer Krabbe (whose earlier suspense novel, The Golden Egg, was made into the film The Vanishing ) provides us with a hero, a promising student turned successful geologist turned alienated drug smuggler, who puzzles out this question for most of his life. After showing us what narrator Egon Wagter has become, waiting for an appointment he knows can end his life, Krabbe revisits a student exploration of Belgian caves, when the young Egon met another young student, Axel, an obvious sociopath. This meeting, other accidental meetings, and scraps of news about the casually evil Axel forms the central fascination of Egon's life. While crime plays a role in this novel, the chief suspense comes from watching how Egon's obsession deforms his actions. The Cave is Kafkaesque in its exquisite examination of a man doomed by his own thoughts. Connie Fletcher
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars An exquisitely wrought Chinese puzzle Oct. 25 2002
I was surprised to see the book described in reviews as a thriller. Although it has some elements associated with that genre, thriller-readers will probably be disappointed with The Cave. Aside from the fact that it's a very fine piece of literature--something rarely true of thrillers--it's primarily an enchanting (and ultimately chilling) tale of love and fate. The translation was so smooth I wondered if it hadn't been written in English to begin with. It has the kind of weight that is usually only seen in the work of European masters--Peter Handke and Friedrich Durrenmatt come to mind. Speaking as a novelist, I have to say that I wish I'd written it myself.
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4.0 out of 5 stars wonderfully crafted thriller Oct. 10 2001
I had some trouble getting into the first part of this novel but that probably had more to do with the fact that I started it on a train straight after finishing another book and hadn't given my brain time to adjust to the change of pace (in my head I always finish books faster than I start them).
However, once I entered the second section (the flashback to childhood), I was hooked. Wonderfully crafted this is a thriller less reliant on thrills than subtle revelations.
As the book moves towards its conclusion the subject matter gets progressively more uncomfortable and unpleasant but, conversely, to book begins to delight more and more.
The Cave can be read in one sitting (or two train journeys!) and is likely to be a novel you will want to read again and again.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Many Twists in a Short, Well-Constructed Novel Dec 23 2000
Tim Krabbe's The Cave is a beautiful little book that is ultimately sad. Its tale twists over many decades and three continents and then twists back again. The beauty of the writing and the style of the author is how he is able to create so much in so little space. The reader understands the characters quickly and sympathizes with them instantly. These are basically good people moved to do things they would not otherwise do by an irrestible force in the form of a man, Axel. The themes of lost chances and the interconnectedness of everyone are present and poignant throughout the novel. The suspense is in the first part of the novel but the strength of the story is in the revealing of the tapestry that created the action. This novel was a joy, albeit bitter sweet. Worth the time it will take to finish this beautiful little tale.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Cave Dec 20 2000
The theme of the book is hinted at in the description, toward the end of this novel, of a game that a mother plays were her two sons: "She would name two events, and they had to come up with a way for the second to result from the first. Someone in Rio chokes on his pudding, someone in Paris buys a box of thumbtacks twenty years later. It was always possible; you could always come up with something that made sense."
Puzzles, twists, interconnections are all laid over what seems like a straightforward suspense novel. The Cave is a beautiful little book, full of sweetness and irony, coincidence and inevitability.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Thriller!! Dec 12 2000
I became really involved in reading this story to the point where I couldn't put it down. It's a small book, but a very complex story, that goes back and forth in time, where it may seem confusing at times but by the end it all falls into place. It was at this point I found myself saying this book would make a great movie. It involves two friends Egon Wagter and Axel van de Graaf who are from Amsterdam. The story weaves from between the time they meet at camp on vacation at the age of fourteen through the years to adulthood. Axel becomes such a part of Egon's whole life, always seeming to turn up at the most crucial times. It's a story of unforgettable characters and betrayal in the deepest sense. I felt sorry for Egon, his life seemed so controlled in so many ways by this one man, Axel.
I really enjoyed Tim Krabbe's writing, it makes you really pay attention. It's the type of book you want to read again to make sure you didn't miss anything, like a movie that you seem to learn more about every time you watch it again. Now I know why this was a bestseller in the Netherlands.
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