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BEN LOVES ANNA by Peter Hartling


by Peter Hartling & translated by J.H. Auerbach & Ellen Weinstein

Pub Date: April 29th, 1991
ISBN: 0-87951-401-9
Publisher: Overlook

Hartling's Old John (1990), set in a German milieu evoked with perfectly selected detail, exquisitely demonstrated that the verities of the human condition transcend their setting. Here, a disastrous decision has been made (presumably by the publisher): a gentle story about a ten-year-old schoolboy's friendship with a Polish refugee in his class is completely undermined by pretending that it takes place in America, though almost every incident and detail—e.g., the characters' names, a teacher's assignment, Ben's gift of flowers to Anna's mother on his first visit, even how jobs and housing are acquired—seems European, and is certainly not American. Set in Hartling's homeland (Austria), this would be a quiet but pleasingly warm-hearted story; as it stands, it's an exasperating travesty.~(Fiction. 8- 11)