Gunther Geltinger, trans. from the German by Alexander Booth. Seagull (Univ. of Chicago, dist.), $30 (376p) ISBN 978-0-85742-368-9
Geltinger’s (Hombre Angel) second novel traces a lavishly descriptive path through the titular landscape—finely rendered in Booth’s translation—but ultimately sinks beneath the weight of its dense prose and heavy-handed emphasis on the grotesque. The story centers on Dion Katthusen, a 13-year-old boy with a debilitating stutter living in Germany. Divided into four sections named after the seasons, the book begins with Dion’s adolescence as he struggles through the complexities of his own sexuality, as well as the sexuality of his mentally unstable mother, Marga, who rapidly transforms into the main adversary of the tale. Seeking isolation, Dion begins to explore a strange moor filled with legends and mystery; the moor speaks for Dion, who cannot summon the words to convey his own experience. This literary device, however, pushes Dion to the role of powerless outsider and observer. Strikingly, the sections told with the most clarity come through Marga’s voice, as she responds to Dion’s award-winning account of his childhood, which he publishes later in life. Marga’s responses to specific passages within her son’s writing—“a heavily detailed and vindictive tapeworm of a sentence, without any break”—illustrate the mentally exhausting ordeal of trudging through the tortured, time-jumping structure of Geltinger’s novel. Lush imagery abounds, with gorgeous depictions of the northern German countryside. Unfortunately, the effort of reading Geltinger feels more like hacking through a jungle than traversing a rain-sodden moor. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 10/17/2016
Release date: 12/01/2016
Genre: Fiction
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