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Like Sartre, Peter Weiss has moved from an existentialist interest in the individual to an existentialist insistence on history. The two long stories collected here, originally published in Germany in 1960, present a timeless and stateless nether world of phenomenological fantasies and Kafkan ""bodies and shadows,"" strikingly different from the author's later and famous works for the theatre, Marat/Sade, the flamboyant meditation on revolution, and The Investigation, the documentary study of the Nazi death camps. In ""The Shadow of the Coachman's Body,"" the metaphor is that of a peeping Tom, a man obsessed with looking and recording, an alienated figure wending his way through lives as deprived or brutalized as his own, the setting a sort of nightmarish farm country, full of guilt and disrelation. The metaphor of ""Conversations of the Three Wayfarers,"" that of the wanderer, is more lyrical, radiant with parabolic touches, though just as hallucinatory, the protagonist standing ""in the middle of a flash-flood of movements and sounds,"" of memories inconsolable and incomprehensible, drifting snapshots of his marriage, childhood, travels, and the weighing presence of the ferryman and his sons, perhaps a biblical motif. Nothing in these fictions is explicitly stated; events keep asserting themselves in a quasi-cyclical series of portents and nudgings; and the laws of causality being both mocked and followed, the performances are primarily held together through Weiss' brilliant camera eye (some of the pictorial effects are worthy of Bergman) and his evocation of minds at the end of their tether. Arresting.

Pub Date: Feb. 9th, 1969
Publisher: Delacorte