This kind of gray and humorless and relentlessly intellectual German fiction hasn't been much translated lately here--and it's almost a perverse pleasure to see one again, to be reminded of how much German Romanticism--its cult of anesthetized ruin--still holds sway over some sections of literary culture. Kremer writes of a cipher named Jacob, a consciousness forever being shocked into numbness by life's creepy oddments: the slaughter of a horse, a grotesque screenplay, the discovery of a soldier's dead body, mirrors mirroring mirrors, snow, chess (""I'll tell you what fascinates me about playing chess against myself. It's the chance to inevitably be the winner and the loser at the same time. And the snow. The snow isn't white like snow. The snow takes on any color I want""). Each of the 21 ""text""sections here testifies to Kremer's having arrived at its controlling (and clichÃ‰d) idea before he ended up with its actual prose. Finger exercises.