cover image 1,000 Coils of Fear

1,000 Coils of Fear

Olivia Wenzel, trans. from the German by Priscilla Layne. Catapult, $16.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-64622-050-2

Wenzel debuts with a powerful portrait of a woman finding, losing, and rediscovering herself in 21st-century Germany. The daughter of a punk woman from the GDR and a man from Angola who returned there after her birth, the 30-something unnamed narrator is reeling from the death of her twin brother and from the constant questions and exhaustion she experiences as a German woman with Black skin. Her simple but affecting story is told through scattered memories and personal histories. Much is revealed through a long and captivating series of interviews between the narrator and an interlocutor, whose questions range from the simple (“Why do you chew your nails?”; “Is there something in your eye?”) to the unanswerable (“Why don’t you ever say your brother’s name?”). Wenzel has a knack for capturing feelings and moments of tension, whether as quotidian as a reunion with an old flame at a bar or as terrifying as an encounter with skinheads. Some of the extended and recurring metaphors, though—such as the narrator’s imagining her body as a vending machine on a train station platform—lessen the impact. Despite a few dragging moments, this is an exciting, confident debut. Agent: Markus Hoffmann, Regal, Hoffmann & Assoc. (July)