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 cant go on like this. My flight to Milan doesnt leave Hamburg for an hour. Im 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 dont 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. Im starting to smoke again now, because smoking reduces fertility, smokers sperm dont hold out as long (eventually ...
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).
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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