THE WOODCHUCK HUNT by Ulrich Becher

THE WOODCHUCK HUNT

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Published abroad in 1969, this murky, fitfully vivid psycho-memoir is billed as a ""best seller in Europe""--which suggests that Europeans have either an insatiable appetite for Nazi-ana or an unlimited tolerance for suspense laden with baroque impedimenta. It's 1938, and ""Uncle"" Adolf's Austrian anschluss has sent anti-fascists, like writer Trebla and Jewish wife Xana, scurrying into the nearby resort-y region around St. Moritz. Though befriended by locals, Trebla tells us that he is not happy: he's convinced that Nazi agents are pursuing him--the ""Two Blonds"" appear wherever he goes; he hears horrible screams from a glacier; he sees a ghostly ""Light in the Lake."" And violent deaths--a car driven off a pier, a soldier's gun-in-mouth suicide--crop up around him as he wanders from town to town, house to house. Are all these just ""Hallucinations of a ruined Austrian Marxist?"" Perhaps, but the news from home, which Trebla hears when he helps a talkative resistance group smuggle in a political refugee, is traumatically real: Xana's father, a renowned circus clown-on-horseback, has died theatrically in Dachau. Energized by outrage, Trebla sets out to stalk the assassins--""in the name of all the hunted animals I was out to get the hunters""--and crosses a mountain on foot, meeting memories, apparitions, Freud--but not much action. ""Trebla, world's last living Social Democrat! See him marching down the road alone!"" Also hear him talking to a large number of Austrians, Swiss, and Italians whose dialects have been translated into barely readable, unpronounceable alphabet glops: ""Yeah-no-o, now I've hhadh e-nufff!"" But, if Becher's comic-dialogue rhythms got lost in translation, his sporadically intriguing imaginings were lost from the start--in an earnest, endless fog of inconclusive incidents and uncoordinated ironies.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1977
Publisher: Crown