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As a non-smoker one comes to Rauchernovelle (Smoker’s Story) with mixed feelings. There is a woman sitting a train and complaining that she is forbidden to smoke. Should one feel sympathy here? Or even put down the book?
The book tells the story of a woman who travels. First between Vienna and Zurich. Later we are off to Budapest and Venice. She is almost always on the train, in a compartment with constantly changing fellow travellers. It used to be a smoking compartment. The armrests have fold-out silver ashtrays of the kind that today are almost unknown. The protagonist wants to pull out one of them. Then suddenly she sees the screws: the flaps of the ashtrays have been screwed down. And some minutes later the protagonist experiences how the screws are boring through her own hands. In the compartment she is being nailed down, crucified.
From now on this fictitious story, which reads like a dream, takes its tremendously fast course. Even non-smokers will join in the excitement.
When will this woman take her next puff on a cigarette and thus find relief? Anatol, a member of the onboard service crew, becomes her accomplice.
Dahimène writes in her customary style which one knows from her earlier works – in, say, Buttermesser durch Herz (Butter Knife Through Heart). Her style of writing is distinctive, the language individual and artificial. Readers must immerse themselves and take time, perhaps even reading passages for a second time. If they do not, the language game – the complexity of the wordplay and the shifts of meaning – will remain hidden to them. The tempo of this book varies. Sometimes there is the slowness with which Dahimène describes the torments of her protagonist. Sometimes the text captivates the reader with its liveliness and vivid language.
It is impossible not to see the author in the protagonist as well: Adelheid Dahimène was a smoker. Her own silhouette can be seen on the paperback which has now appeared. Smoker’s Story is the last book which the author released for printing. Dahimène, who also wrote books for children and young people as well as lyric poetry, died in the autumn of 2010.
Abridged from the review by Emily Walton, March 2011
Full German text: http://literaturhaus.at/index.php?id=8825
[ book info ] Dahimène, Adelheid: Rauchernovelle.
(Book language: German)
Translated from German
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