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Günter Wels: Edelweiß.

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Review

Reading Sample:

Near Hörsching, a convoy of tanks approached, fifteen or twenty Jagdpanther tank destroyers with filthy chassis. The SS man pulled over to let the convoy pass.
"You were up close to that racket in Attnang?" he said, as some dented tanks rumbled by.
"Yes, sir, Herr Squad Leader."
"And?"
"What should I say? It was… not pretty."
The SS man resumed driving, and Mahr talked about his experiences in Attnang as they drove on toward Linz. Five or six waves of attack had swept the area the previous day. Mahr told him about the rescue mission at Dallinger Inn—and the bodies they had found in the rubble. The SS man badmouthed the Allied air gangsters, who thought they could crush the German nation with terror attacks. But Greater Germany's fighting spirit would outmatch those Americans, that much was sure, since the Germans would never, under any circumstances, capitulate to the Americans' will to destroy.
"I don't doubt it one bit," Mahr said, looking out the side window.
They found themselves in a type of no-man's-land between country and city; on the horizon, he thought he could see the first signs of the Gau capital of Linz. In the near distance several farmhouses cowered below a group of tall white trees. The SS guy stepped on the gas and passed a Steyr 50, then changed back into third gear.
"And before you came to Attnang, you say you were in the sickbay?"
"Yes, sir, Herr Squad Leader."
"Where?"
"In Bad Aibling."
"Bad Aibling," said the SS man. "Bad Aibling, outside Rosenheim. I know it. I spent a couple days there in the spring of 1940, before the Maginot Line really got going. How's the old Spa Hotel Wittlesbach doing?"
"No idea," said Mahr. "I never got out of sickbay."
"The food at the old spa hotel was fantastic. Grade-A meat. Never eaten there?"
"No," said Mahr. "I wish I had. The grub in the sickbay was impossible to get down."
At the side of the road, they saw a tavern and a decaying shed. Mahr sensed the atmosphere in the car had turned frosty. The SS man stared straight ahead with steely seriousness, the quiver of his jaw muscles revealing certain tension. Mahr pretended he hadn't noticed anything. In a comradely tone, he proceeded to tell about his pneumonia, which had first brought him to the sickbay at the Front and then to provincial Bad Aibling, and the painful coughing cramps and bouts of fever that had plagued him for weeks. While he got all worked up over certain details of his story, he felt as if he believed it himself for a few moments. He talked and talked and looked straight ahead through the windshield with a strained gaze. In the sky not far ahead, he thought he spotted a row of silver-gray dots. With time, the dots grew. Mahr felt his pulse accelerate.
"Are those low-flying aircraft?" he asked.
"Where?" The SS man bent forward and clamped his eyes shut, "Damn it all!"

(pp. 309–311)

© 2018 Czernin Verlag, Wien
© English translation: Hillary Keel, 2019

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