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Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker: Fremde Seele, dunkler Wald. [Foreign Soul, Dark Forest]

de    en    fr    span    cz

Novel.
Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer, 2016.
304 pages; hardcover; 20.60 euros.
ISBN: 978-3-10-002428-2.

Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker

Excerpt

"Rumour is a pipe / Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures"
wrote Shakespeare in King Henry IV.
Such wisps of rumor waft through Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker
's new novel, Fremde Seele, dunkler Wald [Foreign Soul, Dark Forest], published by S. Fischer Verlag in Frankfurt am Main. Like his first books, Der lange Gang über die Stationen (2008) and Magdalenaberg (2009), this novel takes place in Upper Austriasomewhere near Kirchdorf on the Krems, the author's birthplace, although the village is never named.
The story revolves around two brothers: Alexander and Jakob Fischer. The older brother, a soldier in his early 20s, is at his parents
' farm recuperating from a horseback-riding accident in Kosovo, where he is stationed. The younger brother Jakob, who is around 15, has just finished school and is working on the farm.
Alexander spends his days at the village tavern. He takes his brother with him, but Jakob does not seem the slightest bit interested in his brother
's stories. For some time now, Jakob has been visiting Nina, who gets pregnant shortly thereaftermaybe by Markus, with whom Jakob has become very close. The two young men talk about everything except their love triangle. Is Markus only a kindred spirit for Jakob, someone whose death wish he shares? Or are the two of them in love and unable to come to terms with, let alone name, their homosexuality?
When Markus hangs himself some time later, people suddenly say Jakob was with him. Was it a suicide pact? (A second rope was found.) Or did Jakob murder his friend and make it look like suicide?
The communication between Jakob and his parents is also noteworthy. When Jakob moves back to the farm after his break-up with Nina, his parents do not even ask what happened. Rumor precedes him, even though Jakob would like to talk to his parents and clear the air.

In another narrative thread, we follow Alexander, who has gone back to his post in Kosovo. Later he takes a job at the defense ministry in Vienna and begins an affair with his boss's wife, whom he falls madly in love with. Meanwhile, he is closely following a case that has been rattling his hometown in Upper Austria. A young man has decapitated a woman with an axe. Most disturbingly, he seems to have had no motive.
Prizewinning author Reinhard Kaiser-Mühlecker, born in 1982, again proves himself an empathetic and exact observer of the so-called backwaters. He delivers spot-on descriptions of both the social structures in the countryside and the abyss in which its denizens lie dormant.
Fremde Seele, dunkler Wald is a multi-layered, subtle, and thought-provoking novel that was rightly nominated for the German Book Prize.

Abridged version of the review by Angelo Algieri, August 2016.
English translation by Laura Radosh.

Full German text: http://www.literaturhaus.at/index.php?id=11218

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