cover image Geometric Regional Novel

Geometric Regional Novel

Gert Jonke. Dalkey Archive Press, $19.95 (131pp) ISBN 978-1-56478-048-5

The traditional regional novel celebrating simple rural living is gleefully subverted in this experimental fiction, originally published in Germany in 1969, by Austrian writer Jonke. Alternating mathematically precise descriptions with dreamlike interludes, the author evokes a stultifying village where a schoolteacher obsesses over petty rules while the ineffectual mayor enacts meaningless public rituals. Instead of taking their place in a linear plot, daily events, such as a tightrope walker's performance in the village square, are refracted through multiple points of view, concrete verse and associative word clusters. Alleging that ``black men'' are hiding in the shadows of trees, the town authorities begin to monitor all citizens' activities; permission to take a walk in the woods requires submission of a six-page form in duplicate. Ordinances, pat aphorisms and pseudo-informative diagrams pervade the narrative, testifying to the onslaught of bureaucracy. Meanwhile, a flock of violent birds periodically destroys villagers' houses, perhaps symbolizing nature's revolt against a fossilized social order. Leavened with irreverent humor, this Kafka-esque fun house of a novel raucously protests the regimentation and standardization of modern life. (June)