In nine luminous stories of love and loss, loneliness and hope, Judith Hermann's stunning debut collection paints a vivid and poignant picture of a generation ready and anxious to turn their back on the past, to risk uncertainty in search of a fresh, if fragile, equilibrium. An international bestseller and translated into twelve languages, Summerhouse, Later heralds the arrival of one of Germanys most arresting new literary talents.
A restless man hopes to find permanence in the purchase of a summerhouse outside Berlin. A young girl, trapped in a paralyzing web of family stories and secrets, finally manages to break free. A granddaughter struggles to lay her grandmother's ghosts to rest. A successful and simplistic artist becomes inexplicably obsessed with an elusive and strangely sinister young girl.
Against the backdrop of contemporary Berlin, possibly Europe's most vibrant and exhilarating city, Hermann's characters are as kaleidoscopic and extraordinary as their metropolis, united mostly in a furious and dogged pursuit of the elusive specter of "living in the moment." They're people who, in one way or another, constantly challenge the madness of the modern world and whose dreams of transcending the ordinary for that "narrow strip of sky over the rooftops" are deeply felt and perfectly rendered.
Stalled communication and the vagaries of memory are the familiar themes woven through the nine spare stories in Hermann's debut collection. Her characters, mostly youngish to middle-aged Berliners, stubbornly insist on living in the past even if it's someone else's past. In "The Red Coral Bracelet," a young woman, trying to sort out her own relationship with an uncommunicative boyfriend, describes to her therapist her great-grandmother's life in St. Petersburg, where the great-grandmother's lover shot her husband through the heart in a duel. An artist in "Sonja" finds that his unusual relationship with a reticent, mousy chain smoker whom he claims not to desire is far more resonant than his love affair with a bombshell. The narrator of "Bali Woman" addresses an absent-lover while out on a restless all-night odyssey among Berlin's art world denizens, and in "Hunter Johnson Music" (one of the two stories in the collection not set primarily in Germany), an isolated man living in a dilapidated New York City hotel gives an unusual parting gift to a neighbor woman who's stood him up for a date. Hermann's characters are restless, their desires oblique and unfocused, their memories more real than their raucous real-life encounters. Yet in spite of some sharp observations of contemporary German manners and mores, and her generally elegant prose, Hermann's stories often don't transcend the melancholy self-absorption of her characters. (Apr.) FYI: Nearly 200,000 copies of this Kleist Preis-winning title have been sold since its 1998 publication in Germany, and foreign rights have been sold in 12 countries. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.