Journalist Daniel Mandelkern leaves Hamburg on assignment to interview Dirk Svensson, a reclusive children's book author who lives alone on the Italian side of Lake Lugano with his three-legged dog. Mandelkern has been quarreling with his wife (who is also his editor); he suspects she has other reasons for sending him away. After stumbling on a manuscript of Svensson's about a complicated ménage à trois, Mandelkern is plunged into mysteries past and present. Rich with anthropological and literary allusion, this debut set in Europe, Brazil, and New York, tells the parallel stories of two writers struggling with the burden of the past and the uncertainties of the future.
Picking up Pletzinger's literary tour de force, Funeral for a Dog, feels like crashing a party that is in full swing by the time you walk in the door. If you've ever entered a roomful of people you don't know, but who all know each other, you can relate. It may take some time and trust in Pletzinger's authorial skill to get into the groove of the book - and maybe a glass or two of wine - but in the end, your efforts will be worthwhile. (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).
The story often meanders and can be somewhat frustrating, but those who make it to the end of this eccentric tale will have enjoyed an undeniably uncommon journey. Pletzinger is a unique young voice emerging from the hotbed of the German literary scene.
Starred Review. [A] smart and rewarding debut marked by accomplished writing, a slick translation, and intelligent takes on the absurdities of contemporary life.
Wolfgang Hobel, Der Spiegel
Pletzinger's debut is a real smash hit. It's been a long time since a young German writer has thrown himself into the hurly-burly of life and literature with so much intelligence and bravado
John Wray, author of Lowboy Funeral for a Dog is an unalloyed delight. If Thomas Pletzinger’s ballsy novel is any indication, things are happening in German fiction right now that we owe it to ourselves to pay attention to.
Gerald Stern, National Book Award-winning poet
An incredibly moving, fascinating and original novel. We are looking at a young novelist who is going to make an amazing mark on not only German literature, but on world literature. I can't praise it enough.
David Varno, Words Without Borders
The kind of writing that makes us want to read the whole book as soon as possible; a shot of adrenaline that immediately takes us to a new world.
Writing a novel in a single language, for a homogeneous audience is a difficult enough task. However, when a foreign publisher decides to publish a novel in another language, even more challenges ensue. Diana Thow of The Iowa Review discusses these obstacles with Funeral for a Dog author Thomas Pletzinger and translator Ross Benjamin. The following are selected excerpts from the full interview:
DT: Ross how did you involve Thomas in your translation?
RB: I'd say it was question and answer mostly.
TP: The translation was a very slow process. In the beginning we met, talked about the book, drank beer. We would work on one page or two pages and then go for a walk with the dog in between, or have dinner. I think during that time, Ross, you got an idea of what I wanted the book to sound like.
RB: I was doing a brain scan of you. A Vulcan mind-meld while we were getting to know each other.
DT: Can you give me an example of some of the questions you would ask?
RB: While translating I find that when I want to...
Unafraid to show his traumatized characters' constant groping for emotional catharsis, Foer demonstrates once again that he is one of the few contemporary writers willing to risk sentimentalism in order to address great questions of truth, love and beauty.
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