TRAVELING ON ONE LEG

The first English translation of an earlier work (published in 1992) from the acclaimed MÅller (The Land of Green Plums, 1996) is a profound story of dislocation: an exile from Romania struggles to find her bearings in Berlin just before the end of the Cold War. Even in her native land, Irene was already something of a stranger, taking long walks by the sea partly because she knew there would be an old man, waiting in the bushes, who would masturbate while looking at her. A chance encounter on the beach with a young, drunken German provides her with someone she knows when she crosses the border for good, but Franz, fearful of commitment, can’t bear to meet her at the airport, sending his friend Stefan to make the connection instead. While Irene endures the scrutiny of German bureaucrats before receiving relocation aid and citizenship, she also suffers a malaise of the heart brought on by the mixed messages of Franz, Stefan, and, finally Stefan’s friend Thomas, who, though the most responsive to her, is also bisexual. Irene settles into a routine in her new Berlin apartment, a routine regularly punctuated by visits to or visits from her men and supplemented by her daily observations of the beer-bellied construction worker who labors on the scaffolding outside her window. It’s a life of waiting, of anomie and despair, but for all that it’s the bitterness of such an existence that she keenly feels and sharply observes. Through it all, Irene knows she will endure. With a cool, minimalist style that simulates alienation, this fictional bleakness is not an easy read, but even in its now-dated Cold War milieu, it dramatizes a fact that seems fundamentally human: that, somehow, everyone is alone.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8101-1641-3

Page Count: 149

Publisher: Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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