THE FIREBUGS by Peter Faecke


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Someone commented that the new German writers of the '60's are a kind of self-appointed national conscience. Peter Faecke Joins them and this short, splintered, savage novel which takes place before and after the War years in East Germany is filled with censure. But like Grass and Uwe Johnson, he uses oblique devices to suggest, implicate and accuse. Faecke's writing is perhaps closer to Johnson's in its transitional technique; characters fade in and out; scenes are strikingly imprinted on a page or two then dissolve; time is plastic. It is sometimes confusing. The story is told through the boy Pnip (the name which lends itself to humiliating sobriquets, such as Pnipsqueak). He is one of the bastards fathered by a Pole, Glonski, in an isolated, rural community because of Glonski's ambition to achieve a ""son whom no one would dare touch, of birth so perfect as to command unquestioned obedience."" This is part of his revenge against the Germans (who rubbed his face in dung) which also includes arson (burning down their sawmills). But Pnip himself is also a victim of the cruel German character under indictment here; he grows up with a twisted smile and idiosyncratic tics; he has to prove himself to his tormentors in a dreadful episode involving the brutalization of a cat; and his girl, Erna, is abused not only by one of the local farmers but by Glonski. The whole novel proceeds in a haze of horror to the final scenes of retaliation and revelation; and while it is sometimes difficult to follow, it is explicit in its intention.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 1965
Publisher: Knopf