WINTERSPELT by Alfred Andersch


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Ghost divisions are wonderfully suited for sand table games. For fiction."" Sand table games are military games, and Andersch (Efraim's Book) has built an ambitious novel around a military anecdote--a fragmented and self-conscious literary exercise steeped in German despair but alive with original touches shimmering through the gloom. As the Third Reich totters, a German major in the fictional village of Winterspelt realizes that the war is a lost cause, so he and his schoolteacher girlfriend toy with the idea of massing his troops so that they'll be easily captured by the Americans--the first surrender of a German battalion! Is the Major serious, willing to risk his life, turn traitor? His girlfriend is: she dispatches the friend of a friend with a secret message to an American army captain. Will the captain accept the surrender? Does it matter? Andersch plays with his narrative--actions are sometimes broken down non-sequentially, details out of order--just as he plays with the idea of gamesplaying, troop movements as rolls of the dice: the Major is, as we realize only very slowly, ""just supposing,"" even if his girlfriend's messenger winds up really quite dead. Though the ironic intent of all this is emphatic--the randomness of war, the hairpin happenstance turnings that cost lives--the author's stylistic assertiveness (his choppy, fevered approach suggests a sort of troubled-sleep state) keeps Winterspelt from being accessible to any reader except one willing to plunge deep and then suspend himself above the flow of information till the waves of a visible story start to roll in. All texture and nuance--little grab.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1978
Publisher: Doubleday