Excerpt of Funeral for a Dog by Thomas Pletzinger
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Dirk Svensson: Interview and Profile (Mandelkern)
Elisabeth and I havent exchanged a personal word for days, and professionally shes met me with stubborn resolve for weeks. She gave me the assignment as I returned her gaze aloofly and angrily (her urgent mouth). Dirk Svensson: Interview and Profile means a weekends less time for what Id like to say privately to Elisabeth. Ive heard of Svensson. You cant escape his name these days, hes written one childrens book and is probably on the verge of making a fortune. Im not interested in childrens books or their authors, I dont want to write a story about this Svensson, I could have said at the editorial meeting, I want to talk to you. But I remained seated and looked first at Elisabeth (red hair tied back off her neck) and then at my feet (green flip-flops). Why now? I asked, and Elisabeth gave a completely professional answer: If the piece couldnt appear next week, she said, or the week after at the latest, then another newspaper would do the story. The appointment had presented itself today, Svensson had called and actually agreed to a meeting (the connection had been really bad). Svensson the man, Elisabeth said at the editorial meeting, the man remains hidden behind this one childrens book and its sales figures. Id started the research, but then I passed the job on to her intern, because Ive never been interested in childrens books. For weeks the editorial department has been abuzz with talk about him, and for weeks the story has been postponed. Svensson doesnt want to travel, he cancels all his appointments, he lives alone with his dog, and apparently this dog is everything to him (a black German shepherd with three legs). Svenssons exact place of residence is unknown to us: northeast of Milan, somewhere on Lago di Lugano. Elisabeth pushed the two black folders across the table to me. Mandelkern is the perfect man for this story, she explained at the editorial meeting, this assignment suited me better than anyone else. The trip to the anti-doping laboratory in Châtenay-Malabry would be reassigned to Harnisch, since hes a former sportswriter (Harnisch is as athletic as a pencil). Im an ethnologist and get the strange assignments from Elisabeth: Mandelkern writes about anthropological concepts like matrilineality and male childbed, so Mandelkern meets childrens book authors and their dogs. On Saturday (today) I would fly to Milan and return on Sunday (at four). Svensson is peculiar, said Elisabeth with a laugh, but profiles and strangeness are your specialties, Mandelkern.
Taleggio & Quartirolo
Its Elisabeths diplomacy in front of our colleagues that I cant bear, her defiant diplomacy, which, to appear fair, has to be unfair (the evenly distributed green of her eyes). Her intern had done the research, printed it out, and bound it, Elisabeth said later in the hallway outside the conference room, now it was my turn. She pointed to the black folders in my hand, then her telephone interrupted us. Elisabeth answered with her first name. Youll definitely find Taleggio and Quartirolo down there, she whispered to me, as if I were running out to the Swiss gourmet deli on Grindelallee to pick up a few things (Christls Comestibles). And Barbaresco! That was on Wednesday: she wanted to get personal, I turned around and left. On Thursday we lived alongside and past each other: Elisabeth was asleep when I got home, I was asleep when she headed out (since I started working for Elisabeths department, our marriage has become more professional). On Friday morning we happened to meet in the kitchen. We should go out to eat tonight, I said, we can talk rationally on neutral terrain (Elisabeths red hair in the backlight like a halo, Elisabeth is a holy witch). Elisabeths reply: We drink too much. We dont have to drink, I said, we have to talk.
Excerpted from Funeral for a Dog by Thomas Pletzinger, translated by Ross Benjamin. Copyright (c) 2008 by Verlag Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Köln. The translation of this work was supported by a grant from the Goethe-Institut which is funded by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. English translation copyright (c) 2011 by Ross Benjamin. Originally published in German under the title Bestattung eines Hundes. Used by permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.