Saturday, September 17, 2011
Maybe This Time - Alois Hotschnig
You are walking down a road, you take a turn, let’s say for examples sake, left, and carry on walking, gradually something, some feeling, starts to disturb your equilibrium, you let it go, and continue walking but this feeling starts to grip, it’s as if something saurian is using your spine as a percussion instrument, there’s an eight millimetre drill bit slowly boring into the back of your skull turn by turn. You spin round tracing your route back with your eyes glancing off every surface, tracing every obstacle – it all looks the same, in the distance the traffic appears to flow as before, the sun is still shining, you about turn and face your intended route, willing whatever’s making you feel this way to show itself. Nothing does, to all intents and purpose this is just a route to your destination, it has the same cars, the same road furniture, the houses line up as regular as soldiers on parade, the same as elsewhere, the same curtain twitches as the same old lady turns from the window - and yet……..
Somehow you’ve entered the universe of Alois Hotschnig, this is the rabbit hole and Alice is so far outside her comfort zone - it hurts. These nine tales have an interior logic of their own, like dreamscapes they inhabit that hinterland just outside our line of sight, just beyond our awakened selves and can easily trip over into a nightmare realm. Hotschnig comes over as a bored and decadent God playing a malevolent game of Sims*. .
In the first tale the narrator appears obsessed with his neighbours, following their every movement, he is disturbed by their complete disregard of him, yet feels himself under surveillance. In another an old woman invites a man into her house and although he doesn’t know her, she appeared to be expecting him, then introduces him to a doll with the same name and looking exactly like him, in another tale we follow a beetle and through the cold observations of the narrator we watch it die as it’s attacked & eaten alive by ants. Meike Ziervogel states “Outwardly normal events slip into drama before they tip into horror” and this rings true, these tales confound, bemuse…unsettle and like some poltergeist that has taken up residence in your mind, they bang and clatter, long after the book is back on the shelf.
Alois Hotschnig (born 1959) is an Austrian writer, he began studying medicine before switching to German and English studies at the University of Innsbrück. In 1989 he won the sponsorship award of the state of Carinthia for his story Aus (Out). Although Hotschnig has written novels (Leonardo's Hands, Ludwig's Zimmer (room) ) he is considered important as a short story writer, in 2008 he received the Erich Fried Prize, with the jury stating that “ more than any other German language writer he affirms and develops the unjustly neglected “literary form of the short story” and in 2010 was shortlisted for Jan Michalski Prize for Literature, TheSüddeutsche Zeitung praised him “as one of the best authors of his generation”.
I received this book from Peirene Press , a fabulous independent publishing house, who are committed to publishing world class literature and high quality translations, specializing in contemporary European literature. They tend to be books of less than 200 pages, that potentially can be read in around the same time it takes to watch a DVD. They scour the winners and short listed books from the most prestigious literary prizes in the various European countries, such as the French Prix Médicis, the German Georg Büchner Preis, the Polish Nike, the Czech Magnesia Litera etc., with the aim of releasing the literature of the highest quality in English translation - This is the second book I’ve had from them and their success rate has so far been a 100%.
Alois Hotschnig . Com
International Literature Festival – Berlin