Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 768
The following morning, Hazel and Augustus make their way eagerly to Peter Van Houten’s house. Their knock is answered by a potbellied man in pajamas who immediately slams the door in their faces. The man—Peter Van Houten—holds a loud argument with his assistant, Lidewij, who has apparently set up the meeting without her boss’s knowledge. Van Houten commands her to tell Hazel and Augustus that he “was making a rhetorical offer to meet, not an actual one.”
Lidewij soon opens the door and ushers Hazel and Augustus inside, apologizing for her boss’s behavior. Van Houten sits down across from them and, although it is still morning, begins drinking straight Scotch. He is pigheaded and rude, insulting Augustus’s intelligence and seeming offended by Hazel’s choice to dress like Anna, the main character of An Imperial Affliction.
As the conversation continues, Van Houten ignores the questions that Hazel and Augustus ask him. He rambles about Greek philosophers, and he plays them a rap song in Swedish. To Hazel, the song sounds “completely normal…except in Swedish,” but Van Houten delivers a crazy lecture about the unsurpassed ability of Swedish hip-hop artists to convey emotion. When Hazel and Augustus seem unconvinced, Van Houten calls them stupid.
Hazel and Augustus are stunned by Van Houten’s manic, pretentious, and rather cruel monologue. “Is this some kind of performance?” Augustus asks. Lidewij, clearly mortified, admits that Van Houten is just being himself, if a bit more erratic than usual.
Eventually Hazel gets impatient with the author’s attitude. She presses him for the answers to her questions about An Imperial Affliction, and he gives her just one answer, an explanation of the fate of the main character’s hamster. But when Hazel asks what happens to Anna’s mother, Van Houten blows up. He says his characters are figments of the imagination. As such, they have no lives outside his novel.
At this point, Lidewij gets angry and tells Van Houten to give the kids a break. When he refuses to be anything but cruel to them, she quits her job. He demands that she pour him another drink, but she refuses.
Hazel, equally angry, refuses to stop pressing Van Houten for answers. She demands to know what happened to Anna’s mother in the story. She repeats this question over and over, probably because she is so worried about what will happen to her own mother when she dies. Van Houten refuses to give her any comfort.
After a while, Augustus and Hazel decide that there is no point continuing to listen to Van Houten insult them. They storm out, and Hazel cries in the street. Augustus comforts her by promising to write an epilogue to An Imperial Affliction himself.
A few minutes later, Lidewij finds Hazel and Augustus. She offers to take them to the Anne Frank Huis, the place where a famous young Jewish girl lived and kept a diary during World War II, before she was eventually discovered and murdered by the Nazis. They agree to go, reasoning that they might as well see Amsterdam while they have a chance.
The Anne Frank Huis has no elevator, but Hazel insists on walking up the stairs to see where Anne Frank lived. Hazel almost faints at the top, but she gets to see the museum. At one point, she looks at a record of Dutch Jews who were killed by the Nazis. The book is open to a page containing Anne Frank’s name, and Hazel is stunned to read the names of four Aron Franks next to it. It amazes her that the world remembers the one Anne but none of the Arons; she reflects that very few people get remembered after they die.
At the end of the tour, Hazel realizes she wants to kiss Augustus. She no longer feels so convinced that she ought to hold back, so she acts on her desire. She expects people to be angry when they see teenagers kissing in such a setting—but the adults in the room actually clap after the kiss is over.
After the kiss, Hazel suggests going to Augustus’s room. Augustus agrees, and they end up having sex. According to Hazel, this turns out to be
the exact opposite of what I figured it would be: slow and patient and quiet and neither particularly painful nor particularly ecstatic.
Afterward, when Augustus falls asleep, Hazel goes back to her room. She leaves him a “love letter,” a silly diagram showing that at least one teenage amputee is not a virgin.