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Dutch author delivers lecture on popular novel at Clarkson University convocation

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POTSDAM — Writer and actor Herman Koch visited Clarkson’s Cheel Arena Sunday to deliver the Van Sickle Endowed Lecture on his popular book “The Dinner.”

The book was required reading this summer for incoming freshmen at the university, who discussed it with Mr. Koch and each other.

The convocation marked the first time the author has spoken at a U.S. university, being invited by Clarkson about one year ago in response to his book.

Mr. Koch, who is curious about the U.S., accepted the invitation and will tour the Northeast for a week with his wife, planning to visit the Adirondacks and Maine. He flew into Montreal on Wednesday.

“Being at an American University is for me a new experience,” he said.

“The Dinner” — a New York Times bestseller for 2013 and Mr. Koch’s debut novel in the U.S. — is a dark and controversial tale based on a real life incident involving two drunk youths in Barcelona, Spain, who pelted a homeless woman with objects near an ATM, causing a fire that killed her.

The novel imagines what might have happened if the parents of the youths discussed over dinner whether or not to go to the police over the incident.

Mr. Koch said he believes “The Dinner” is a good read for students because it has been a hit with young people in places such as his home country of the Netherlands. He said he has received many invitations to speak about the book at high schools in France, Italy and other countries in Europe.

In his lecture, “On Lying the Truth,” Mr. Koch spoke about truth and lies in fiction, arguing that some events have to be fictionalized because they sound unreal as they are.

Mr. Koch tries to put students at ease by encouraging them to ask him anything.

“I am always interested in having a real-life discussion,” he said.

The convocation, which celebrates the start of the academic year, is an opportunity for the college community to gather, as well as a chance to welcome new students and introduce them to Clarkson traditions, according to Michael P. Griffin, director of news and digital content services.

He said the assignment to read Mr. Koch’s book and his lecture were geared toward fostering unity among freshmen as they begin their college journey. The event was free and open to the public.

For his fans and people interested in reading more, Mr. Koch said he recently released a new novel, “Summer House with Swimming Pool.”

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