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[ book tip by Incentives ] Thomas Glavinic specializes in declines. His protagonists fight the gravity of all earthly ramblings; they grapple with apathy, alcohol, and demoralization. His early novels often were peopled by young men projecting an aura of smelly socks and masturbation. In his most recent novels, middle-aged men must find their peace with wives and children, with shifting career opportunities, or with dwindling love. This is true of Das bin doch ich (2007; But That’s Me), an exercise in prose about a writer named Thomas Glavinic. And it holds true for Das Leben der Wünsche, a novel that tells of the fantastical with a realistic narrative approach.
The beginning is a fairytale; the ending, a nightmare. Jonas, a copywriter without much ambition, in a middle of the road marriage, and occupied with steamy thoughts of his lover Marie, is approached by a stranger on the street. The man offers to grant him three wishes. Jonas doesn’t take the guy seriously, but does in the end use his first wish to ask that all his wishes be granted. Some time passes, but nothing happens. Then Jonas notices that there might be a connection between his unconscious wishes and the dramatic events going on around him. First his wife dies, just like that, of a heart attack. A man is run over by a truck in front of his eyes, a gas station owner is shot, an airplane he’s booked a ticket for catches fire. And a near miracle happens: Marie decides to spend her life with Jonas. Her Russian husband is suddenly called to serve in the war in Ossetia.
Glavinic’s finesse is his ability to envelop the monstrosity of these events in a narrative tone that is inconspicuous, harmless. He accomplishes this primarily by using short main clauses in which innumerable text messages, typical for his style, are camouflaged. To be sure, the fairytale storyline is a little too predictable. It is not really a surprise that the protagonist’s own wishes throw spanners in his works. Yet despite this, Thomas Glavinic, born 1972, is among the best Austrian writers of his generation.
Abbreviated review by Judith Leister, November 2009. English translation by Laura Radosh.
Complete version in German: http://www.literaturhaus.at/index.php?id=7304
[ book info ] Glavinic, Thomas: Das Leben der Wünsche.
(Book language: Deutsch)
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