Save Us, Maria Montanelli
Save Us, Maria Montanelli by Herman Koch is one of the most moving school novels in Dutch literature. A stone-cold classic, in print for over twenty years and still relevant today.
The supposedly modern and liberal Montanelli Grammar School, where children are expected to be ‘extremely creative’ and teachers are far too well-intentioned, is the setting for this eerily recognisable novel. The main character is a pupil at this school. When he is linked to the drowning of a boy with learning difficulties, he is expelled from the school. In his story he tries to prove that the boy’s death was actually caused by the ‘posh South Amsterdam neighbourhood’ in which they live, an environment where money has become the measure of all things. His condemnation of this environment is tragic, for in spite of his criticism, he clearly remains a product of the environment he so despises.
In a penetrating manner, Herman Koch describes the fortunes and misfortunes of the fossilised teaching staff with its false cheerfulness and hypocritical belief in the ‘Montanelli Method’.