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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Barbaresco
Stood in the hallway in front of the floor-length mirror and finished off the wine. Looked at the blood on me, the streaks next to my belly button, and from behind me Elisabeth reached into the dried blood on my cock, into her own dried blood on my cock and in my pubic hair, and said, Tomorrow in the battle think on me (my cock a blunt sword; Elisabeth and I warlike: we grind ourselves dull against each other, we strike our blades jagged). As I was about to wash off the blood in the bathroom, Elisabeth was sitting on the toilet and said, you know, Daniel Mandelkern, I’m waiting for you to decide (the bluntness of pissing women).


Yes/No/Maybe
Elisabeth was waiting for a decision, I was standing all sticky in front of the sink. She brushed her hair back behind her ears and reached for the toilet paper. Mandelkern? I must have been staring at her. Daniel? She wiped herself clean and flushed. Suddenly Elisabeth was everywhere: I saw and heard and smelled and tasted her, her blood on me, her wine in my mouth, I felt for my swollen lip, my tongue ran over the fine cut on the inside, which was still bleeding (her accidental elbow). You look like an idiot staring at a math test, said Elisabeth. Did I understand what she’d said? Yes, I said, and kept staring, no, I said, maybe (dashboardgearshift-Italy-university-Mandelkern-Hamburg-Berkeley-blood-almond-ethnology-time-Barolo-Breton-child-Renault-Anne-Laura-Eva-Hornberg-CarolinaOne-PetShopBoys-Katrin-Britta-paternoster-Kolberg-matrilineality-Geertz-Svensson-octahedron-aquarium-aquarium-couvade-Venasque-Malinowski-nostalgiatourists). One minute, I said, and spit in the bathtub. I turned my back on Elisabeth and shut the bathroom door behind me, I gathered up my scattered clothes and got the folders from the dark kitchen. Then I took the suitcase and left.


my headings, my categories
I’m actually an ethnologist. In America I’m a cultural anthropologist. I observe people, I collect conversations, I probe hierarchies, I take pictures, I sort texts, I catalogue materials, I assemble my ideas. In England I’m a social anthropologist. For almost two years I’ve been writing for Elisabeth’s editorial department. I’ve questioned and profiled people for her, I’ve taken down life stories in shorthand and summarized worldviews, I’ve fulfilled her requests. I conduct interviews and write portraits, framed by days of silence in airplanes, hotels, and bus stations. I take notes because I want to put things in order (I want to sort myself out).


Why take notes instead of going back?
I hold the pen in my hand and write, I make a note of myself (Daniel Mandelkern). I don’t let much pass without remark, I make a note of almost everything (airport terminals, newspapers, cigarette prices, black German shepherds with three legs). I write my body: diarrhea, three-and-a-half liters of wine last night, the two of us. I’m still waiting alone at the gate. The red wine didn’t agree with me (headache). Later I want to write Elisabeth’s hair, her blood on me, still later the chatter a few seats down, the two Italian women are still sitting there, my Italian is miserable, hence the word “chatter.” I make a note of my anxiety, my happiness and hesitation, I write:

Elisabeth Elisabeth Elisabeth,

the third time with distinct reproach in my handwriting. I make a note that it doesn’t do you any good to be married to your boss, that it’s wrong to work for your wife, that a child won’t solve our problem. That it can’t go on like this, Elisabeth! With a paper cup of coffee and my first cigarette in months, I’m sitting in the nonsmoking waiting area of the Hamburg Airport. I write “nonsmoking waiting area” even though I’m now smoking, even though no one besides me is waiting (so much for truth).

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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