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,...
Tagged: Wolfgang Hermann
by Wolfgang Hermann translated by Mark Miscovich In the age of “Sex and the City,” when Manhattan has been elevated to the Mecca of the world, Wolfgang Hermann prefers to wander through the red-light district, immigrant quarters, bad neighborhoods and the docks. Hermann’s readers are confronted with homeless people, immigrants and the poor. Other people and their stories abound in his writing, although Hermann’s poor flâneurs are not granted the privilege of merely strolling and observing, for encounters play a particularly pivotal role in his texts. With an introduction by Mark Miscovich.
by Wolfgang Hermann translated by Rachel Hildebrandt Herr Faustini lives alone in a small Austrian village close to the Swiss border. He is content to spend his days as he always has: in the company of his cat, his old armchair and two beloved potted plants in his little garden. A series of events cause Faustini to question the boundaries of his life. He finds himself trying to tie the little tricks of destiny into tighter knots that would give deeper meaning to his own existence. When his sister, who long before married and settled in sunnier southern Switzerland, celebrates a milestone birthday and invites him to visit, Herr Faustini initially hesitates. However, once he decides to take the trip, he discovers the thrill of loving and being loved in return. Herr Faustini feels tempted. But he finds himself unable to cope with the prospect of happiness so late in life. He decides to return to his former, quiet solitude. While travelling through this delightful book, we may wonder why we feel so strangely drawn toward this incredibly sensitive, unique character. The answer should be obvious: because somewhere, deep in all of us, a Herr Faustini breathes.