Summary and book reviews of Funeral for a Dog by Thomas Pletzinger

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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About this Book

Book Summary

Rich with anthropological and literary allusion, this prize-winning 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.

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.

August 6, 2005
(And who exactly is Daniel Mandelkern?)

Elisabeth demanded a decision, and I left our apartment without making one. It can’t go on like this. My flight to Milan doesn’t leave Hamburg for an hour. I’m sitting alone and completely exhausted in the waiting area at Gate 8 (on the other side of the airfield, the pines on the edge of Niendorf). At Gate 7 two Italian businesswomen are joking around. I get up, I have to move so I don’t fall asleep. Somewhat farther down the corridor a newsstand: I buy a newspaper (Süddeutsche Zeitung), I buy a postcard (image: Hamburg Volkspark Stadium, aerial view, 1999), I see Semikolon brand notebooks. The only other place that carries them is a stationery store next to the Academy of Fine Arts on Lerchenfeld, which is always an all-day trip, so I buy three of them. I buy cigarettes. I’m starting to smoke again now, because smoking reduces fertility, smokers’ sperm don’t hold out as long (eventually ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

Full Review Members Only (673 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

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.

Publishers Weekly

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

Author Blurb 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.

Author Blurb 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.

Author Blurb 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.

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Beyond the Book

The Challenges of Translation

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,...

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