Read: Schmerznovelle bei Helmut Krausser 
Wednesday, 22 .June, 2005, 17:44 - English Entries, Literature

Kraussers "Schmerznovelle" (tranlates somehow to "pain novella") has not been translated into English yet. The only book of him that made it into English is "The Great Bagarozy", of which I only saw the film version. I have the movie in good memory.

A friend of mine recommended Krausser to me. Schmerznovelle was the first book I read that was written by him.

It is a completely exceptional book. It is short, dense, intelligent, thrilling and most of all it left me totally confused. Confused first about the story itself, that got twisted all the time, even in the very last chapter. I did not understand the last chapter - leave it like this for the moment.

The real confusion did not grow from the turns of story, but from the destruction of reality that Krausser slowly waves into the short chapters. From a point on there are only phenomens left, but it is impossible to make definitive statements about them. You see the story going forward, you understand what is happening, but neither the main character nor the reader can interpret it anymore. There are several interpretations given - but which one is true? Is there any true interpreation at all?

So the only person that is really trustable is the main character, who tells the story. He tells the story by looking at it mostly in a straight time-line, but throws some reports and letters into the middle, that made me think I would know how the book goes on. Nothing I knew. And then in the very end, our narrator is put in front of an unclear background. Two sentences are enough to let us understand that there was more to him then we saw during the novel. His story was not told completely, he stayed silent about certain parts, he tried to appear different to us then he really is. But still, it might be that these two sentences do not mean much. We don't know. We cannot know, the book ends here.

"Reality is just the nearest myth" ("Realität ist nur die nächstliegende Fiktion") Krausser writes and then he takes away every base for anything that is near - he forces you to chose your personal reality myth and by chosing one you will always doubt it. It did not come along obviously, you selected it. You can never be sure of. But if you cannot be sure of this piece of reality, which one can you be sure of at all? Did he really only remove the knife from the corpse, as he assumes, as he cannot remember it anymore, or did he maybe even put the knife into the body when it was still living? What will he choose?

The book holds some exreme sexual scenes, that one might object to or enjoy, there is most likely no other way to feel about them. It is definitly not one of these "listen to me, I talk about sex and perversion" books. To get stimulation from what is written there you have to have a ...special approach to sexual intercourse. Which does not mean that it would not be stimulating, just saying that most likely not for everybody.

The language is at every moment perfect. There is not a word too much, you never have the feeling that the author talks too much. The chapters are short and Krausser has a unique way to put "bigger spaces" between paragrahs. Ususally these spaces indicate a shifting of scenes or a time gap, some books indicate them with three stars ("***") or something like that. Not at all here. There is just a gap and then the story goes on. These gaps are put in the middle of dialogues and at least for me they put my attention up, it had the effect of ringing a bell.

Metaphors in this book are never lame or wrongly placed, although there are quite a number of them. There are some paragraphs were we just have to follow the narrators views on life and its meaning - they are as thrilling as the story that goes on around them.

If they don't translate it, this book is one of the few reasons that I know why somebody should learn German.

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Eagles and Angels 
Monday, 06 .June, 2005, 17:27 - English Entries, Literature

During the flights to and from Canada and the stay in Quebec I read the German version of Eagles and Angels (German edition: Adler und Engel) of Juli Zeh

It is hard to judge this book. Juli Zeh is a German writer and she for sure has the most poetic language that I have read in any modern German book. The book is never anything like boring - it is a crime and a brutal love story (nothing romantic for sure), it is the European version of a drug delirium report and the disillusioned selfexamination of a man willing to die but not knowing how to do. Yes, it is not exactly a funny story - you better read Harry Potter if you dislike the thought that people on the edge do really exist in your country.

Zehs language, as already said, is pure gold. She puts sentences, paragraphs, chapters one after the other and every metaphor hits right into the back of the brain, makes it impossible not to listen further to the words. One could say this is brilliant, that is for sure right, but most of all this is new and daring. This is a tongue never tried for such purposes.

The characters are all described with the care that they need, because they are all maniacs, drug addicts, self-centred and mentally ill. The perfect community for a good read. Frustration about life and society drops from every page, mixes with Zehs sarcastic humor and the few true feelings that are left for overfed and bored-to-death consumers.

I do not know how Juli Zeh (22 years old) found out about the lightless depths of a middle-aged mans mind. Her descriptions of the main characters thoughts are in many places well-known to me. It makes me afraid to see that a mans mind seems to be so obvious to a 22 year old woman.

But this is where the fascination is in this book: in the words and the personalities. The story is good, but the more it comes to an end it seems constructed. The whole case has one or two coincidences too many, the bigger background picture just seems too unrealistic. The story leapes over the beautiful frame of the book and leaves a strange taste.

Nevertheless a book for sure worth reading. If it would not be summer, it would get 10 out of 10 points, as it is so beautifully depressed. But the temperatures are over zero, so I am only able to give 8 out of 10.

And for those of you who know and love Vienna I especially recommend this book. The bigger part of it is settled in the Austrian capital. There are sentences that describe the city better than anything read or heard up till now. One example may be allowed "The city lay flat like a person awaiting death from fever, without movement, dryed out, halluzinating under the surface" (see German edition, page 97, last paragraph).

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