cover image Two or Three Years Later: Forty-Nine Digressions

Two or Three Years Later: Forty-Nine Digressions

Ror Wolf, trans. from the German by Jennifer Marquart. Open Letter (Longleaf, dist.), $14.95 trade paper (142p) ISBN 978-1-934824-70-2

The narrator of Wolf’s “digressions” emerges as the most vivid and interesting character, and although many of these pieces have nominal plots, more present is the playful treatment of the nature of storytelling and the relationship between author and reader. “My purpose is to describe things as accurately as possible,” says the narrator, somewhat disingenuously. He makes the reader his confidante in dozens of nuggets that blur the line between memoir and fiction and that range in length from a single paragraph to almost 50 pages. Seemingly innocuous moments, like a woman whispering in a man’s ear at a company picnic, are given an air of significance. Longer digressions, similarly small in scope, are more playful. In “A Short Description of a Long Journey,” the writer makes “a few casual remarks” about a trip that takes him to the Congo, Guatemala, Nagasaki (where he sees “a giant, frozen moon that I’ll describe later”), Valparaiso, San Felipe, Santiago, and, among other locales, Bilbao, where he is astonished to meet an old acquaintance. And “The Forty-Ninth Digression” unfolds in 12 chapters that cover the writer’s tumultuous sea voyage, traversing several continents over 25 years, until an absurd noir-inspired encounter with a femme fatale ends the tale. Consistently quirky. (Jun.)