Next World Novella Paperback
Hinrich takes his existence at face value. His wife, on the other hand, has always been more interested in the after-life. Or so it seemed. When she dies of a stroke, Hinrich goes through her papers, only to discover a totally different perspective on their marriage.
Thus commences a dazzling intellectual game of shifting realities. ------- Why Peirene chose to publish this book: 'This novella deals with the weighty subjects of marriage and death in an impressively light manner.
Shifting realities evolve with a beautiful sense of irony and wit.
It is a tone that allows us to reflect - without judgment - on misunderstandings, contradictory perceptions and the transience of life.' Meike Ziervogel, Publisher
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 144 pages
- Publisher: Peirene Press Ltd
- Publication Date: 31/01/2011
- Category: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780956284037
Showing 1 - 4 of 4 reviews.
Review by writestuff
Review by teresa1953
Hinrich Schepp has never wanted to be the centre of attention. Qualified to be a university lecturer and professor in his field of Ancient Chinese Language, he is content to be a research fellow. He is proud to have won the heart of the remarkable Dorothee Wilhelmine Renate, Countess von Hagelstein whilst at university. She, in turn, surrenders her career to become the plain Frau Schepp, devoted wife and mother. Yes, he is content, even more so, when his poor eyesight, which has plagued him all his life, is restored by laser surgery and the world takes on a new meaning for him. What was once a cloudy blur, is now bright and crystal clear.Unfortunately, what Schepp can now see on waking this morning is his dead wife hunched over the desk where he left her editing his work the night before. True, he had often discovered her asleep in this position and shaken his head at her devotion, but there is a strange smell in the room today which he can't quite place, and now it's source is horrifyingly obvious. As he seems relucant to let her go, Schepp reflects on how they had talked often about the after life...the next world... and Doro's dread of the huge black lake she believed the newly dead encountered as they passed over.In a distressed and anxious state, Schepp discovers the manuscript Doro had been editing is a long forgotten, part completed story of his, and alarmingly, her comments had become scathing and personal. This leads to a story within a story and they begin to take on startling similarities to his own post operative life. Schepp starts to doubt the very fibre of his marriage. All he had believed is called in to question and we learn that Schepp himself has not been entirely truthful to his wife. There are two delicious and intriguing twists at the end of the novella which made me catch my breath.This book was kindly sent to me for review by the publishers Peirene Press and it is the fourth of their stunning collection of European short novellas. This new addition does not disappoint and I congratulate them on their selections, which are all immaculately translated into English and so refreshing to read.
Review by AndrewBlackman
I finished this 138-page novella in one evening and thoroughly enjoyed it. The book opens with Hinrich Schepp discovering the dead body of his wife Doro. She has been editing an old manuscript of his, a novel he started writing before they met and quickly abandoned. Through her scathing margin notes he discovers an entirely different side to her, and to their 29-year marriage.So the story is told through his reading of the manuscript and Doro’s notes on it. The story of the aborted novel bears a striking resemblance to a recent incident in Hinrich’s own life, an infatuation with a waitress in a bar, except that in the novel version the male character is more heroic. As he reads Doro’s notes and corrections, he understands that she knew all about the things he thought he had kept secret.Hinrich also thinks back to how he met Doro and their early life together, and so we get a wonderful insight into how relationships can change over decades. I loved how Hinrich’s laser eye surgery changed his behaviour, making him notice things in life that were blurred for so many years, things like the beautiful waitress in the bar with the mysterious I Ching character on her neck. The operation that was meant to improve his life ended up destroying his peace of mind, as he chased experiences he felt he’d missed out on before, and in reaching for things that were far away he lost the things that were close to him, like his intimacy and love for his wife.There are a couple of nice twists towards the end that I won’t give away here. They contribute to the sense that this is a very carefully constructed novella, one in which more or less nothing happens in the ‘present’, other than Hinrich finding his wife’s body and reading the manuscript, but in which a lot of ground is covered in retrospect. Still it’s a thoughtful, meditative kind of book rather than a plot-driven one. The author has a lot to say about the nature of love and relationships, and says it very effectively. It becomes clear, for example, why Doro couldn’t talk to him about any of these things when she was alive – as he is reading, Hinrich at first denies and then rebuts and only in the end concedes the truth. I felt the intense sadness of Hinrich and Doro’s inability to communicate, and the way it erodes their marriage and turns love to hate. One of the twists at the end sheds a more positive light on this, but I promised I wouldn’t talk about it so I won’t.
Review by BlackSheepDances
“Where his contemporaries succeeded, he stood aside. Luckily the details eluded him because he saw antying that was more than three to five metres away only in indistinct outline. Of course he noticed something was going on. He just didn’t let on, learned another language instead. And although at university he was at last considered a genius and quietly admired, he still always had to stand aside when the real prizes were handed out.”What real prizes? That question becomes the theme to this story of Schepp and his wife Doro, two academics who teach Chinese history and whose marriage appears solid on the surface. Schepp serves as an anchor to Doro as she has a tremendous fear of death---she worries obsessively about possible afterlife scenarios. Doro, for her part, is a quiet and agreeable complement to Schepp’s genius, and they raise a family together quietly and in peace.That is, until Schepp has eye surgery to better his eyesight. Suddenly, everything changes…quiet and peace are no longer enough: the change in his vision changes his entire outlook on life.“It was terrible to see the world in such detail, so sharply outlined, all of a sudden! It had always been so comfortably impersonal in its remote milkiness; Schepp hadn’t felt he was missing anything. Now it dazzled him with a confusingly large number of details… Overnight life seemed like one long missed opportunity. If he had previously renounced a great deal, never complained, he was now determined to make up for it.”The novel begins ominously, as he finds Doro dead in their study (not a spoiler, it’s stated on the back cover!). As shock sets in, he is strangely unable to take the necessary actions, and instead finds himself poring over her notes. The Doro he discovers in print was one he had never seen, although he’d lived with her for decades. Thus the concepts of sight, vision, appearance, and imagination all combine to make this a suspenseful read, from the reality of his dealing with her corpse to the mystery behind her hidden personality.Woven into the story of this couple is another story, one that Schepp wrote in his spare time, “Marek the Drunkard”. It has its own suspense and ties in to Schepp’s life as he both writes the story and somehow unknowingly appears in it. The denouement of it, a manuscript that Schepp had kept hidden and was somehow now edited by Doro, creates confusion and another element of mystery. It begs the question, how much of a writer’s own intentions and wishes are put into their writing? How separate can a writer be from his characters? Was it a novel that he wrote, or a wish list? An alternate life? As the terrible day of his grim discovery proceeds, a sense of anticipation builds. I found myself mentally urging him to call the coroner, to put the notes away, to get some air. Yet he’s locked into that manuscript and what she’s written…this new woman he hadn’t seen before. “He was in such a state that he accused Doro to her face of deliberately distorting the facts, of malicious insinuation. Angrily he asked her why she always had to destroy everything, even in death! Now she had gone and spoilt even this sad day for him…” A thought-provoking read, I wish it had been longer! In a practical sense, it made me never want to smell cut flowers again, and I certainly will make sure my pathetic short stories are password-protected.