HEARTSTOP: Stories by Martin Grzimek


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Three long stories by a German writer, the most striking of which skillfully distributes itself between an unhurried, relaxed realism and a steadily building undertone of alien unease that climaxes with heavy knocks of fate. This standout is ""Finlandia,"" in which a young German couple, Sophie and Berndt, go off to an idyllic Finnish island for two weeks of canoeing, saunas, silence, endless daylight, and delightful isolation. The island gives all this and more (Sophie happily finds herself pregnant)--yet they are on edge all the same: sounds in the night, the sighting of other vacationers on the lake, a fear of fire in the wooden cabin. And all these anxieties prove alarming but ultimately benign--making the catastrophe that the story's penultimate sentence laconically discloses all the more shocking: unreasonable, arbitrary, yet completely effective. Grzimek's dark pessimisms are on more schematic display in the other two pieces: in ""Heartstop,"" a businessman is bound to--and subverted by--his schedule; ""Timestop"" is the literary refraction of an infinitely postponed disaster (a car wreck); but, though taut, these stories seem more tricked-up and rushed than the genuinely sneaky ""Finlandia."" Still, all in all: the English-language debut of an interestingly dour European voice.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1984
Publisher: New Directions