This collection of short fiction interrogates the conventions of storytelling and obliterates the norms of psychological realism.
Wolf is a poet, a maker of collages and a writer of radio plays. Born in East Germany, he emigrated to the West at the age of 31. He has received many awards, including the Kassel Literature Prize for Grotesque Humor (2004). That Wolf received an award for grotesque humor (not to mention that there is such an award) is as good an indication as any of his work’s strangeness. Characters hit other characters on the head with various objects, are shipwrecked, fall down, and are witness to or victims of accidents. Wolf’s characters move with fantastic slowness or at normal speed; they wear hats, or they don’t; they regard certain events as important but then relate a meaningless story, at least to them. They reside in, are from or visit small towns. But what most characterizes Wolf’s stories is the absence of explanation, either for the stories themselves or for the characters’ motives. This is typical: “Essentially, everything about this man is either odd or utterly insignificant. I can’t comment on anything else.” There is no why, but a spirit of why not.
The best of these stories create an atmosphere of whimsy and menace.