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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    Mar 2011, 322 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Dirk Svensson: Interview and Profile (Mandelkern)
Elisabeth and I haven’t exchanged a personal word for days, and professionally she’s 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 weekend’s less time for what I’d like to say privately to Elisabeth. I’ve heard of Svensson. You can’t escape his name these days, he’s written one children’s book and is probably on the verge of making a fortune. I’m not interested in children’s books or their authors, I don’t 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 couldn’t 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 children’s book and its sales figures. I’d started the research, but then I passed the job on to her intern, because I’ve never been interested in children’s books. For weeks the editorial department has been abuzz with talk about him, and for weeks the story has been postponed. Svensson doesn’t 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). Svensson’s 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 he’s a former sportswriter (Harnisch is as athletic as a pencil). I’m an ethnologist and get the strange assignments from Elisabeth: Mandelkern writes about anthropological concepts like matrilineality and male childbed, so Mandelkern meets children’s 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
It’s Elisabeth’s diplomacy in front of our colleagues that I can’t 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. You’ll 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 (Christl’s 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 Elisabeth’s 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 (Elisabeth’s red hair in the backlight like a halo, Elisabeth is a holy witch). Elisabeth’s reply: We drink too much. We don’t 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.

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