An author who deserves an audience

Paris Berlin New York: The Color of the City by Wolfgang Hermann FICTION Author: Wolfgang Hermann Translator: Mark Miscovich Greenville, South Carolina. KBR. 2016. 217 pages. Western literature is full of accounts of vagrancy and tales of the flâneur. So why would we need yet another? Wolfgang Hermann’s Paris Berlin New York, collected here in one translated volume with a critical essay by Mark Miscovich, is a work that exceeds expectations and proves that the theme is anything but exhausted. In fact, Hermann’s book situates him in the same orbit as Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen, Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, as well as the postmodern master W. G. Sebald. In terms of writing style, Hermann’s is closer to Baudelaire’s than the others, despite carrying the feeling of being absolutely contemporary. Paris Berlin New York reads more like prose poems than a series of short stories. What the reader gets is a series of snapshots of place, often eerily uncanny places like those that arrive in dreams. Reading Hermann is like grasping at the residue of a dream that stays with us just long enough to either make a suggestion or leave an ephemeral imprint on our consciousness. The book is divided into four sections. “Paris,” “Berlin,” and “New York,” which make up the first three sections, are told in the first person, and the narrator wanders those cities like a ghost moving through the walls of some ancient ancestral home. There is a sadness, an errancy, to these pieces, as if the narrator is a wisp of smoke drifting toward some unobtainable destination. “The places I go through, go all the way through me. They fill me with their weight and gravity, their inertia and lethargy and give me the emptiness, muteness, volubility, or in the worst case,...