Innerfar and Bluff, or the Southern Cross: Two Novels by Gerhard Koepf

Gerhard Kopf, Author, Leslie Willson, Translator
Gerhard Kopf, Author, Leslie Willson, Translator Camden House (NY) $29.95 (239p) ISBN 978-1-57113-182-9
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In these two short novels, the Bavarian-born Kopf plunges into a thick exploration of insanity and the imagination in order to tackle concerns--German-ness, freedom, revelation through fantasy--that he shares with other postwar German novelists. Innerfar is set in the imaginary region of Thulsern (the setting of There is No Borges and Papa's Suitcase, both of which have been translated into English) and pays homage to Gruppe 47, the literary group that greatly influenced postwar German writing. Free-spirited Karlina is modeled on the Gruppe's originating hostess and is introduced as she enters an asylum soon before her death. Kopf's imagined memories of her provocative and inspired encounters with a young man years earlier are juxtaposed with the inquiry into madness undertaken by Karlina's therapist. Loss and fulfillment cohabit uneasily in the novel as Kopf purposefully blurs the distinction between reality and fantasy, truth and illusion, in order to make a rather Romantic point about the redemptive powers of the imagination. In Bluff, a teenager's longing for freedom and travel results in the freakish death of his best friend. During his ensuing identity crisis, he seeks guidance in an adopted grandfather and ultimately achieves understanding and resolution with the old man's passing. Kopf's prose, at least in this translation, is gnomic, often to the point of solipsism. He belabors the idea that the human spirit is nourished by the permutations of storytelling. In so doing, he inhibits the restorative powers of narrative he means to celebrate. (July)
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