CITY WITH HOUSES

Ernst-Wilhelm Handler, Author, Martin Klebes, Translator, Martin Klebes, Afterword by , trans. from the German by Martin Klebes. Northwestern Univ. , 17.95 (160p) ISBN (228p) ISBN 978-0-8101-1912-3 ISBN 0-8101-1818-1

The 11 stories in this collection, first published in Germany in 1995, reveal Händler to be a formidable intellectual and literary talent, although his relentlessly insular and almost obsessive approach to narrative, form and subject makes many of these titles virtually inaccessible to the average reader. Händler's primary motif is a stream-of-consciousness narrative in which his protagonists relentlessly dissect or describe a situation, subject or story, often turning language and form inside out in the process. The author is at his best when he sticks to a simple format—"Trigger," for example, delivers a haunting account of a transsexual prostitute's encounter with a violent client, while "The New Guys" picks apart what happens to a business when a new executive regime comes on the scene. Händler extends his reach a bit in "Language Game," an entertaining yarn in which he examines the path a beautiful, precocious girl takes as she explores her sexuality. Some of these stories are described in the afterword as preparatory sketches for later novels, and several are so arcane, with so many elliptical twists and turns, that they challenge even an attentive, detail-oriented reader to follow the brilliant but often erratic train of thought. Others are esoteric to the point of being obscure: a typical example is "Max," a meditation on the way machines could alter the nature of consciousness. Händler's writing is an acquired taste, but those with the patience and tenacity to wade through these stories will find themselves constantly challenged and enlightened by an extraordinarily vigorous mind. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/03/2001
Release date: 01/01/2002
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