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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you and I
The white frame of the mirror in the hallway makes an old family picture of you and me (black and white in the moonlight), probably a bit too dark and a bit too naked for a family album. A picture we discover later in a shoebox and find much too real for official memory.


the north-south weather divide
Since our takeoff in Hamburg there’s been a thick blanket of clouds below the airplane. The small woman looks at me a bit too long as she passes me on the way to the bathroom (she’s changed her hair band). I’m only on this plane, I think, because my boss has given me this annoying assignment. Instead of talking to my wife, I’m on the way to Lugano. My wedding ring is in my pants pocket, but Elisabeth’s blood couldn’t be washed off. The small woman smiles, I smile back. The pilot’s announcement interrupts our look: we’re flying over the St. Gotthard Pass, he says, below us the north-south weather divide. I look out the window, the blanket of clouds breaks over the rugged mountains. Behind us I can still make out veils of rain, toward the south the mountains are in sunlight, deserted, the roads and paths hard to distinguish (scattered houses). If she and I lived down there, I think, no one would know us (another life).


Caesarean Risk
is printed on the front page of the Süddeutsche. On my right a man stirring salt into his tomato juice, then vodka. An article on birth rates and caesarean statistics. After the first operation women are less likely to get pregnant again, it reads. It’s possible that women intentionally avoid another pregnancy because the caesarean was such a negative experience, says Siladitya Bhattacharya, of the University of Aberdeen. Due to pains and inflammations that occur after the operation, women often don’t wish to give birth again. Elisabeth wants to risk it again (drinking on flights, headaches). I ask for another water with the cheese sandwich (the habit of taking an interest in the local cuisine when traveling; Taleggio and Quartirolo, Elisabeth loves cheese). Once Elisabeth ordered eight cases of Barbaresco at Christl’s Comestibles on Grindelallee, and I felt like a child signing for the delivery.

(making connections where there are no connections)

While the pretty mother reads to the boy, I leaf through the book and look at the pictures. At one point her reading voice breaks off and the boy starts over from the beginning. I read on. Leo and the Notmuch, the five-year-old Leo loses his best friend (is death for children like moving away?). For a whole summer he sits in his room and makes up stories. When his mother knocks and asks what he’s doing in his room, he answers: not much. Does he miss his friend? Not much, always: not much. Leo’s stories are the Notmuch (what kind of an idea is a Notmuch? It’s not nothing, at least).


Daniel & Mandelkern
Before my eyes this image remains: a man named Mandelkern lies still on his back (me), a woman named Elisabeth comes, straddling him, staring into the emptiness of her head, clasps her ankles with her hands (you). Several times she screams his first name into the air between them, and when he later asks the reason why (why Daniel Daniel), she answers that she always thinks that when he doesn’t talk back to her. Elisabeth laughs, Mandelkern doesn’t.


Lost & Found
My baggage has not arrived in Milan, I’m informed by the woman working at the Lost & Found, at least that’s what the system says. The suitcase is probably in Frankfurt, most likely due to the last minute rebooking, I arrived earlier than my baggage. There is no sense in cursing now. I leave the address of the hotel: Hotel Lido Seegarten, Viale Castagnola 24, CH-6906 Lugano (I’ll have to record the interview with pen and paper).

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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