A Man: Klaus Klump

Goncalo M. Tavares, trans. from the Portuguese by Rhett McNeil. Dalkey Archive, $12.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-62897-034-0
This absurdist Portuguese novella is full of non-sequiturs, narrative curlicues, offbeat observations, as well as vivid characters. Klaus Klump is a publisher who loves Johana but one night sleeps with Herthe. When war breaks out, there are atmospheric symbols including tanks and a dead horse. The plot starts to kick in when Klaus is arrested. Meanwhile, Herthe gets married to Ortho, an army officer, but her estranged brother Clako—who performs as a musician at her wedding—threatens to kill the groom. Tavares offers provocative statements such as, "Shoes are very important, because they're the things that keep the intestines intact." He also offers an extended riff on hands and fingertips and Klaus's black lips, to define his protagonist's reason, emotions, rage, physicality, and precision. Tavares's portrait of this man comes together as a mosaic, like the fragments of a news report, not a proper character study. There are also insights and commentaries about destiny, language, peacetime and wartime that culminate in an ironic ending that will prompt readers to question the characters' values and transformations. This is an interesting, albeit challenging work. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/28/2014
Release date: 05/01/2014
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