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COME, LET'S DREAM! by Volker Jehle

COME, LET'S DREAM!

By Volker Jehle

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-595-52717-5

A German social worker is beguiled by a young mentally-handicapped woman in this mesmerizing romance.

When conscientious objector Martin Eckart signs up for a year’s stint as a supervisor at a vocational workshop for the mentally impaired, he finds himself on another kind of battlefield. That’s because of Ulrike, a 20-year-old client who, thanks to a mishap that cut off oxygen to her brain at birth, has the body of an attractive grown woman but the mind of a rowdy preschooler. Unable to sit still for long and militantly opposed to bedtimes, Ulrike throws frequent tantrums that escalate from childish insults, shoving and hair-pulling to punching, biting and serious physical damage. Her rampages dissolve just as quickly into desolate remorse and giddy charm, leaving bystanders both shell-shocked and enchanted. Eckart’s patience and firmness overcome her hostility, but he finds it harder to cope when he becomes the object of her obsessive affection. Innocent but instinctively manipulative–“As he made his rounds of the room, she had turned with him, as if she were holding the reins of a little horse”–Ulrike deploys her violent outbursts, collapsing fragility and off-handed sensuality to draw Eckart into a dangerous intimacy. Maneuvered, only half-unwillingly, into bathing her and hovering at her bedside–the novel’s eroticism stops short of salaciousness–Eckart understands the impossibility of their relationship, but feels a deeper urge to connect that goes beyond prurience. Volker’s engrossing portrait of his appalling, magnetic heroine is a tour-de-force of observation and empathy. His spare, subtle prose–shining through Stanley’s sometimes stilted translation–lends depth to her seemingly stunted personality and quicksilver moods, and pathos to her struggle to control a world she can’t comprehend and satisfy yearnings she can’t articulate. Through her story, the author lays bare a soul trapped in eternal immaturity.

A haunting love story and a triumph of literary imagination.