Monday, 28 February 2011

Next World Novella by Matthias Politycki

Secrets of a Marriage
review by Maryom

On the surface Hinrich and Doro have a happy marriage. Then Doro dies suddenly and Hinrich finds that things were not as he thought. He reads through the papers she's left on her desk and discovers that Doro was not only aware of the things he'd tried to hide from her but that she too has a secret life that he was never aware of. When they first married they made a promise to wait for each other in the limbo just after death and to complete the journey into the next world together. Although never quite believing in Doro's vision of the afterlife, Hinrich now finds himself desolate with the thought that they won't meet there. Following an operation, Hinrich's eyes had been, quite literally, opened to a world of new possibilities, more enticing and exciting than his quiet domestic pleasures. He now finds they were no substitute for his long-term relationship with Doro.

Short, compelling and thought-provoking is what I've come to expect from the novels published by Peirene Press and Next World Novella by Matthias Politycki is no exception. An amazingly compelling read, one I managed to find time and quiet to read despite the disturbances of a school holiday. Politycki takes the reader on a journey into the murky depths and undercurrents beneath the seemingly placid surface of this relationship, exploring the deceptions and self-delusions that have kept them together. Doro feared death and the judgement she might face in the afterlife but it's Hinrich, the survivor, who is being judged here - by Doro's written comments against which he has no real comeback.
The story is told through a series of 'flashbacks' as Hinrich reads his forgotten novel and his wife's commentary on it and the atmosphere of the room changes from light and sun filled, while Hinrich sits companionably beside his dead wife's body, to dark and oppressive as he storms up and down the room ranting at her. The view of their life together changes as the reader sees it first from one perspective, then another and is left wondering whether a little bit of blindness might be best for all of us.

Next World Novella may be a short read at 138 pages but one you'll be thinking about for a long while after.

A word for the translator -I'd just like to add that Anthea Bell's translation reads seamlessly with none of those stumbling, halting moments where the reader feels the translator was still searching for the appropriate word.

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Peirene Press

Genre - Adult Literary Fiction

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  1. I wonder what it is I'm missing here. Everyone seems to love this book but my reaction was, "okay." I like your observance that, while Doro feared judgment after death, it is Hinrich who is being judged by the deceased Doro while he is still alive. That adds another layer to the circular, roundabout narrative.

  2. Good review. It's a good point about the translator - she did an excellent job. I forgot while reading it that it was a translation. There were none of those moments where you think, "Hmm, that probably sounded better in the original language."