BALZAC'S HORSE by Gert Hofmann


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And Other Stories. Ed. & Some of these stories by German writer Hofmann (Our Conquest, The Parable of the Blind) are stylized and invariably surreal historical re-creations: Casanova in decline; Tolstoy's son joining the circus (his act an impersonation of his father); Balzac secretly attending the opening night of his first play in the company of the Parisian sewer inspector. And others are elliptical, emblematic pieces: a mad young man spying on the poet living across the street; a villager forced to institutionalize his mad daughter as the Nazis are beginning to devour Europe. In any event, the allegorical is never far from Hofmann's concerns: maybe the best story here is ""The Cramp,"" about a German industrialist aboard a Vancouver ferry with his wife and associates, two of whom he's preparing to fire--a story whose meaning is elusive but shimmering in a halo around every word. Hofmann is artful enough to promote real questioning in a reader as to the significance of his oblique fictions. But at the same time nearly every piece wears out its welcome by being far too long--and the developed suspense droops before it can be satisfied (or satisfyingly stymied). Intriguing, concentrated work, but with a tendency to overextend.

Pub Date: April 18th, 1988
Publisher: Fromm