The Game for Real

Richard Weiner, trans. from the Czech by Benjamin Paloff. Two Lines (PGW, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-931883-44-3
The line between reality and dream blurs in this absurdist novel by Czech surrealist Weiner. Written between 1929 and 1931, the novel is Weiner's first work to be translated into English, and is separated into two sections that are unrelated in plot, though both explore the mysteries of identity. In "The Game of Quartering," a nameless narrator is followed home to his Paris apartment. The person following him then appears in his apartment; the narrator, aware only that he "should have been astonished," proceeds to go about his business as if the stranger wasn't there. What follows is a strange journey into the mind of the narrator, where little is clear except for his own anxiety. At the beginning of his day, he was at a tavern with his friends Fuld, Giggles, and Mutig, who acted out a cryptic dialogue that somehow culminated in a dizzying cab ride through Paris. The narrator jumps from reality to conjecture with no warning, and it is often impossible to know which is which. In "The Game for the Honor of Payback," a different nameless narrator is accused of stealing a bracelet at a French boarding house. The reader is led through the narrator's dreams and thoughts, where he plays out scenarios of his guilt and innocence. Throughout, it's unclear which characters and situations are real. After being unceremoniously declared innocent, the narrator flees to Paris. Weiner's prose is dense and at times nearly opaque; the book goes both in circles and nowhere, both syntactically and plotwise, but it is well worth the effort for moments of beauty and the overwhelming sense of anxiety that he expresses. This difficult, enigmatic novel, in the vein of Beckett and Kafka, meditates upon the meaning of self, and whether it matters. (May)
Reviewed on: 06/22/2015
Release date: 05/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
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