Thursday, December 03, 2009

System of Vienna

A book I reviewed for Library Journal this fall is in stores today.

The System of Vienna: From Heaven Street to Earth Mound Square by Gert Jonke

In Austria, Jonke's award-winning work has a reputation for being extremely difficult; outside, he is still virtually unknown.

The System of Vienna is both a collection of short stories (originally and disparately published in 1970 and 1980) and an inventive autobiographical novel. The first-person narrator details his travels on the streetcars of Vienna and through life, starting with his blue-skinned birth and ending with a stony love scene, and belatedly explaining the book's subtitle. Translator Vincent Kling's attentiveness to Jonke's use of language—long, intentionally confused sentences, repetition, and fantastically superlative compound words like darkgreenblackcreepingplantalgaemurky (a descriptor for canal water)—helps retain the book's balance as well as its complexity.

This slim volume is not an easy read, and, while Kling's afterword does make it a bit more accessible, readers who aren't into experimental fiction may want to skip it.

See review in Library Journal...

1 comment:

  1. This book was featured in Powell's Review-a-day on March 3