Checking out Japan – with an Austrian eye
Wolfgang Hermann’s Japanese Book of Trails
(Das japanische Fährtenbuch)
By Vasile V. Poenaru (University of Toronto)
This year Rachel Hildebrandt successfully completed her translation of Wolfgang Hermann’s charming and well-received novel Herr Faustini verreist. It is most fortunate that the English readership is now having access to this book that earned critical acclaim in the German-speaking world (for instance in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, in Südwestdeutsche Zeitung and in Aurora-Magazin für Kultur Wissen und Gesellschaft).
Wolfgang Hermann has an eye for uncanny encounters, for the odd, for the exotic, yet somehow common. He traveled extensively. He lived abroad. He came back to his hometown in the Western province of Vorarlberg. Couldn’t find his place. Stayed home nevertheless. Looked out for words. Wrote books. Left again. Moved about. Stayed put. Got up. Moved to Vienna. Still couldn’t find his place. Kept writing. Keeps writing.
There is a lot of thought in Wolfgang Hermann’s underlying narrative. His craftsmanship is solid, his display of quiet intellectual reflection non-assuming, his inner discourse intriguing enough to pull the reader into its flow and clear enough to make sense with one roll of the dice. Such inner fabric provides for a good read.
This has not gone unnoticed in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where the accomplished writer received a number of important and well-deserved awards and distinctions.
As Wolfgang Hermann is one of the contemporary Austrian writers who happened to come near the focal point of the research I conducted at the University of Toronto on Contemporary Austrian writing as an identity paradigm of the new Europe, it definitely is my informed opinion that this writer proves to be indeed a good pick. So I am all the more glad Rachel Hildebrandt took it upon herself to translate Herr Faustini verreist.