Friday, 22 February 2008

The Wall by Marlen Haushofer

This is a wonderful, profoundly moving novel about a woman who is staying in a house in an alpine valley and wakes up one day to find there is an invisible wall between her and the rest of the world. She is isolated with only a cow, a dog, a cat and the land and wildlife around her. It is a beautifully written book and makes the reader ask lots of questions about our ability to be self sufficient, our relationship with the environment and with animals and the meaning of life. Each of the animals is a wonderfully drawn character and the narrator (who has no name) draws great comfort from them. The Wall itself is fascinating too, it could be symbolic of psychological or political isolation or could represent environmental breakdown. I read this book in German, but I think that it is available in English translation.

12 comments:

jem said...

I really like the sound of this book. I will add it to my lists. Thanks for the recommendation.

Janice Thomson said...

It's a great lesson in humility isn't it - to try to do without the things we rely on and take for granted. I've had my own experience similar to this 25 some years ago while building a house and surviving for 3 years without power, running water or a furnace - and raising 6 children to boot. This was at a time when one of the deadliest winter storms hit our area and many died from the brutal cold. It was an experience that still today has deep effects. I'd like to read this book.

poetwithadayjob said...

that is a great recommendation. Sounds a little like a Kafka novel - love it. I will look for it in English. I just pray for a good translation.

Sandy Carlson said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. If it does justice to your description, it will be a great read!

rebecca said...

this book sounds like something right up my alley....the relationship we have with animals, the environment and the meaning of life.

i will look for it...i do hope they have it English as I can't read German!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Janice - i think you'll be able to relate to the book very well!

Rebecca - I'm pretty sure it has been translated.

Poet with a Day Job - yes the quality of the translation will be important.

Jem, Sandy - yes do look out for it, its wonderful!

Middle Ditch said...

Sounds an interesting read. I shall have a look around.

Bonnie Jacobs said...

Yes, it does sound rather like a Kafka novel, doesn't it? I'm adding it to my list of books I want to read.

Yes, it is in English. I found two editions, one from 1994 and another published in 2000. Here's the publisher's synopsis:

"First published to acclaim in Germany, The Wall chronicles the life of the last surviving human on earth, an ordinary middle-aged woman who awakens one morning to find that everyone else has vanished. Assuming her isolation to be the result of a military experiment gone awry, she begins the terrifying work of survival and self-renewal."

The Library Journal reviewer said, "Nearly forgotten after her death in 1970, Haushofer began to attract attention again when this novel was republished in the 1980s. Although it is described by the publisher as ``a startling redefinition of ecofeminist utopian fiction,'' this first-person narrative has been characterized by most commentators as dystopian. It tells of a woman vacationing in a remote mountain hunting lodge who survives an unexplained catastrophe in which (almost) all the rest of the human world perishes. Imprisoned on the mountainside by an invisible wall, the unnamed narrator recounts her struggle to survive and her attempt to discover the essence of her own personality, femininity, and humanity."

I remember a "Twilight Zone" episode on television about the last man on earth. He loved to read and had found the huge public library in New York City. So he was overjoyed. Then he went outside and stumbled (?? or something) ... and managed to step on (and break) his glasses! Oh, the irony!

The Wall sounds really good. Can you tell I'm about to check with my library right now? Thanks for the recommendation

Crafty Green Poet said...

Bonnie - thanks for the synopsis, glad it does exist in English translation. Enjoy reading it!

Tracey said...

Thanks for the recommendation, this sounds like a book I would enjoy. I am also always intrigued by a nameless narrator.

Tracey

tom appleton said...

i have just read this book in an EXCELLENT english translation. it was recommended by doris lessing, quite a few years before she became a nobel prize winner, but this would be one recommendation i'm sure she would have no need to have second thoughts about -- on the contrary, it fully deserves to have the stamp of excellency -- "recommnded by doris lessing, nobel prize winner" -- attached to it by any future publisher. it is easily the best book i have read in a year or several years. i plan to buy as many copies as i can find and give them to people i care about, as gifts.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Tom - glad that there is a good English translation out there, glad you enjoyed it so much too