PAPA'S SUITCASE by Gerhard Kopf


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 Kîpf (There is No Borges, 1993) spins another tale of literary obsession, and fellow bibliophiles will smile in recognition when his Hemingway-devouring narrator wonders, ``Have I read myself into life or read myself out of it?'' In a voice that appears almost deranged, this bookstore clerk hurtles through his acquaintance with Hemingway's work; reading Papa's short stories was ``like an infection with a life-long high fever,'' he proclaims. When he learns of the legend that Hemingway's wife Hadley once packed her then-husband's works-in- progress into a suitcase and left the bag on a train somewhere (precipitating their divorce), the narrator goes into a frenzy searching for that missing piece of baggage, visiting spots where Hemingway had been, or perhaps just imagining those journeys. He also relates moments from his own past, usually wry, Hemingway- esque episodes like the day he went fishing with a buddy carrying a copy of Men Without Women and invited along a girl. Each boy made a catch (``My fish was bigger''), and after some distracted sexual play (``I couldn't get rid of the thought of Hemingway'') the narrator headed home, where he read about Papa and Marlene Dietrich. People begin to call him ``Hemingstein,'' and he develops a pronounced likeness to his idol. There is not much of a story here, and the narrator has no life outside his mission. His only friend, MÅrzig, has his own mania: the subjunctive tense, a fascination that eventually gets him fired from a teaching position, after which he goes mad. A skilled translation maintains the rapid-fire pace from beginning to end. The narrator constantly teeters between being an exuberant eccentric and a lying bore, but that tension is necessary since his adventures are too far-fetched to offer much suspense. An odd little novel that travels well, though it can't help being derivative.

Pub Date: Feb. 20th, 1995
ISBN: 0-8076-1342-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Braziller
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1994


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