The Pine Islands

Marion Poschmann, trans. from the German by Jen Calleja. Coach House, $16.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-55245-401-5
A German academic takes an impulsive pilgrimage with a suicidal young man in Poschmann’s pensive English-language debut. Gilbert Silvester, a scholar of beards (a subject “unrivaled in the dubious stakes”), dreams that his wife, Mathilda, is having an affair. Plagued by a sense of inadequacy, he travels to Tokyo on a whim. There, at a train station, his beard contemplations are interrupted when he stumbles across a young man, Yosa Tamagotchi, who is about to jump in front of a train. Caught in the act, Yosa postpones his plan and the two go for a beer. Inspired by the poet Bashō’s travel writings, they decide to visit the pines on the Matsushima islands, with a detour to the suicide forest Aokigahara. Gilbert reflects on the changes to the landscape in the intervening centuries since Bashō and again dissuades Yosa from suicide. The two take trains north as Gilbert insists they try composing haiku. At the final station, Yosa disappears in the crowd, and as Gilbert continues on alone, his spirits begin to lift. Gilbert’s incisive commentary on modernity’s disruption of natural beauty is both digressive and informing of the men’s fragile states. Readers who like quiet, meditative works will enjoy this strangely affecting buddy story. (Apr.)
Reviewed on : 01/15/2020
Release date: 04/01/2020
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 978-1-77056-628-6
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