cover image Mr. Summer's Story

Mr. Summer's Story

Patrick Suskind. Alfred A. Knopf, $17 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-41995-2

German novelist and playwright Suskind, whose sophisticated novel Perfume drew international attention, now offers a deceptively simple, rather slight fable of childhood and lost innocence. Mr. Summer, a tall, gaunt eccentric whose first name none of the townsfolk knows, roves through the unnamed European countryside every day from dawn until late evening. The goal of his endless nature walks remains a mystery. The nameless narrator, a middle-aged man recollecting his boyhood, tells how he resolved to commit suicide after receiving a verbal thrashing from his hunchbacked piano teacher, only to be inadvertently thwarted by Mr. Summer. When their paths cross again on a black October night six years later, the youth, now in high school, witnesses the mysterious man's final plunge into darkness. Is Mr. Summer a redemptive figure? Is he emblematic of our ruptured unity with nature? Suskind leaves the answers open-ended in a beautifully translated tale. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Mar.)