Excerpt from Funeral for a Dog by Thomas Pletzinger, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Funeral for a Dog

A Novel

By Thomas Pletzinger

Funeral for a Dog
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  • Paperback: Mar 2011,
    322 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Print Excerpt

Aeroporti Milano Malpensa
With my plastic bag on a bench next to the bus stop (the airport building dull green, fields of light and glass facades). “The best Malpensa-Lugano connection is the Airport Express!” reads the itinerary that Elisabeth’s intern wrote (a greasy person with a telephone voice and an absurd talent for data banks and timetables). Not far away the small woman in the tank top again, now holding the sleepy boy’s hand. She brushes a damp strand of hair from his forehead with her index finger and looks into the emptiness beyond the buses; she is his mother (but above all she has an inscrutable beauty, a slender beauty). Her legs are short, but much too delicate to seem ungraceful. She looks over at me briefly, then she disappears behind a bus (www.airportbus.ch). I could carry her suitcase (I could offer her my life), but she’s apparently traveling without baggage.

Biglietto di andata no 133567
Il biglietto di corsa semplice è valido per il giorno cui è stato rilasciato. La mancata effettuazione del viaggio per causa di forza maggiore o per fatto proprio del passagero non dà diritto ad alcun rimborso, né alla proroga di validità.

Sometimes people find themselves on a journey together. To my surprise, the small, pretty woman with the boy gets on the bus to Lugano too, this time she’s sitting a few rows behind me. The bus follows entrance ramps onto the highway, traveling at first over flat land (prefab warehouses, Parmalat and Danone factories, palm trees), at one point through a residential area (the backs of five-story houses, laundry between the windows, lots of pink). I read on in the Svensson file: Dirk Svensson, born in 1973 in the Ruhr area and grew up there, the photo in the publisher’s catalogue shows him smiling in front of a stone house, he’s wearing a shirt with rolled-up sleeves and suit pants. He’s kneeling next to a black dog (you can’t tell if it has only three legs: Svensson is blocking the view). His biography sounds like mine (his shirt rolled up like mine). At Chiasso on the Swiss border, the boy stands on the seat and takes the passports out of his backpack, his mother is asleep now (years ago I learned a smattering of Finnish). I hold up Svensson’s book and wink at him, the boy raises his hand (then the bus station on the mountain over the city, the water is shining in the sun like metal, the boats on it like scratches). When we get off the bus and the boy actually waves good-bye to me, I could go over and speak to the two of them, I could offer the small, pretty mother a cigarette, but she pulls the boy across the plaza toward the city and disappears into a gray concrete entrance (Funicolare, pigeons). I take a taxi to Piazza Manzoni and sit down in a café (three mineral waters, the possibility of another life).

Piazza Manzoni, Lugano, 2:30 PM
I’m waiting for Svensson. I’ll have two hours to ask my questions. Actually, I should skim through the file one more time, but in my fatigue the letters blur (headache). I wait with a view of the fountain. Lugano is a city that is aware of its beauty: through a gap between the houses shimmers the lake, at times a blindingly white sail, chestnuts, ginkgos and palm trees in the early afternoon light. I could get up and leave the folders here, I could wait in the hotel for the return journey (I could refuse). The sun slants steeply on the cobblestones, children and pigeons under the tables, the sparrows on the breadbaskets of the cafés are casually waved away (friendly sparrows are compliments). The light green of the branches hanging toward the water, a boy is feeding swans (8) hamburger buns from a McDonald’s bag, couples have their photos taken in front of the fountain (their faces happy for the duration of the picture). I’m much too early here too. I think of Elisabeth and the numbness that my departure has left behind. Then, despite everything: that I’m not appropriately dressed for an interview (flip-flops and red wine stains). In the Manor department store I buy a clean shirt, I buy another pack of cigarettes (Muratti 2000), I buy postcards (image 1: Monte Brè at Evening, image 2: Vacation in Switzerland, image 3: Ticino Village Scene—all three: Museum of Design, Zurich). I walk along the shore in the direction of the casino, at the Riva Albertolli I sit down on a bench by the water (red; the last surge of pain directly above my nose). The green pedal boats lie waiting in the water, reluctantly I write down

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.

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