A young man sets out with his disabled father to learn the truth about his heritage.
This is German novelist Kloeble’s third novel and his first to reach English readers via this translation by Kerner. The story’s protagonist is Albert, a 19-year-old who was raised in a Bavarian orphanage due to the mental incapacities of his much older father, Fred. When Albert discovers Fred is dying, he takes the old man and sets off on a fairy tale–like adventure to find his real mother. The story turns dark when Kloeble rockets readers back more than 100 years to explore the history of Albert’s family. Beginning in 1912, the author spins out the story of Josfer and Jasfe, two attractive siblings who can’t resist doing the wild thing and producing kids, not to mention that little hunting trip where Josfer kills his father to make things easier on the domestic front. This familial thread picks up again in 1924 with the story of Julius Habom, one of the siblings’ offspring, who has a similarly tumultuous relationship with his own sister. Albert’s family tree might be a bit arcane but it is patently clear Kloeble is trying to upend the conventions of fables and modern notions about parenthood. “Hansel and Gretel crumbs,” Albert says. “You follow them because you think they’re going to help you get out of the forest. And all they do is lead you deeper and deeper in. Till you can’t tell the day from the night anymore. Then, all of a sudden, the trail ends. ”In the end, it's hard to tell whether it’s the preposterous story or Kloeble’s sentimental style that derails the book. Nevertheless, all but the most adventurous readers are likely to be repelled by this whimsical coming-of-age story liberally seeded with incest and murder.
A grotesque and puerile reimagining of German folklore.