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Peter Henisch: Suchbild mit Katze [Hidden Picture with Cat]

de    en    fr    span    cz

Novel.
Vienna: Deuticke, 2016.
204 pages, hardcover, 20.60 euros.
ISBN-13: 9783552063273.

Peter Henisch

Excerpt

A Child Who Wished He Were a Cat

Peter Henisch is one of Austria's more soft-spoken writers. He is the author of several autobiographical novels as well as sophisticated, thought-provoking works like Der verirrte Messias (2009) and light-footed stories such as Mortimer & Miss Molly (2013). In the novel Suchbild mit Katze (Hidden Picture with Cat), the author, born in 1943 in Vienna, returns to the era of his childhood.
In the first chapter, we meet the first-person narrator sitting by the window of an apartment building in Vienna's 18th district, which sends him on a quest to retrace the windows "I've looked out of." The first window he remembers is in Vienna's 3rd district. The sheltered child lives there in a bombed-out house with his parents and a cat. He describes himself as a "child who wished he were a cat. That is, a tomcat." And cats will accompany this singleton, this outsider, all his life.
His father is a photographer and his mother a beautiful young woman from a working-class family. His parents know how to live life and celebrate a brand of cosmopolitanism that is rather progressive for its time. The narrator repeatedly flashes forward to the present day, where a "young woman with a mic" interviews him about his life, perhaps sparking these memories, which conclude with him accompanying his grandfather to the mountain town of Semmering in 1952 or 1953.
As always, Henisch is frugal with adjectives, metaphors, and similes, preferring to focus on perception, on the factual core of his memories. He lends equal space to inner and outer worlds and turns a poetic eye to both his contemporary reality and the environment of his early life without putting the past on a pedestal. At the end, the author of today leans out a window, writing in a brand-new notebook. Sitting beside him is – what else – a cat. It remains to be seen whether he is working on a second part of his autobiography, but I already look forward eagerly to the prospect of a description of his young adulthood after this distinguished, poetic beginning.

Abridged version of the review by Kirstin Breitenfellner, November 2016.
English translation by Jake Schneider.


Full German text:
http://www.literaturhaus.at/index.php?id=11315

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