This is possibly the hardest Peirene novella to write about. Why? Because, even more than the other 3, Next World Novella has a layered plot with lots of twists. And since this is a novella (138 pages) I really do not want to give anything away, but at the same time I feel the need to try to convince you to go and read this book.
The basic premise of Next World Novella is as follows: One day Hinrich arrives home and finds his wife editing an old manuscript of his. Or so he thinks, because when Hinrich comes closer, he finds his wife death. When he looks over her notes on his abandoned manuscript for a novel, he slowly uncovers the misunderstandings that existed in his marriage to Doro. As a reader, you get to see parts of the married life of Hinrich and Doro, as told through the eyes of Hinrich. At the same time, you learn about Hinrich’s infatuation with another woman, through his unfinished manuscript and Doro’s corrections in that same manuscript. You also read a fragment of Doro’s view on their marriage. And of course, Hinrich’s confusion, anger, and sadness when he discovers that his wife is death are portrayed.
I admit, I did not feel the same anticipation about this book as I did with the other Peirene titles. Even the marvelous book trailer could not quite convince me. You could say I started reading this book as a bit of a sceptic. I was not sure I was going to love it, I did not even anticipate or hope to love it. I did, of course, trust Meike’s judgement as a publisher, but somehow I could easily see myself failing to grasp exactly what was going on in this novella.
Now, I hope that did not keep you from reading the rest of this post, because truth be told, I was wrong. I loved Next World Novella. How it blends expectations of life, of death, of the next world, with the pitfalls of relationships, the willingness to love, but yet the failure that it can result in, the insight into the slight miscommunications we have in life, and the consequences they might have. There is so much packed into this short book, all told through the use of different perspectives, shifting realities, and yet never losing the thread that ties the whole story together. That is what makes this story so hard to summarize. All I can say is that I am left in awe of Politycki’s abilities as a writer.
His style is beautiful. And I admit that his first 50 pages touched me to the core. There was no “punch in the stomach” effect such as Beside the Sea, not exactly, but in a way this novella got to me on a deeper level. I was reading about Hinrich’s sadness and confusion when he discovers he has just lost his wife, sitting on the couch next to my boyfriend. And I admit, I had to touch his arm every few pages, just to make sure he was still there. There is something very poignant about the way Politycki describes the way death can make you feel so many things at once, can mean the worst loss of your life in the case of losing your partner, but might also mean that there are misunderstandings left to deal with, and in what way, now that the other is gone? As Hinrich says to himself:
Being dead, he thought, means first and foremost that you can’t apologise, can’t forgive and be reconciled, there’s nothing left to be forgiven, only to be forgotten. Or rather there’s nothing to be forgotten, only forgiven.
Matthias Politycki paints a vivid and poignant picture of love, life and death. His portrayal is overwhelmingly realistic, which makes it at times hard to deal with. Occasionally, while reading, all I could think was: I hope, I truly hope, my life will not be like this. That is a thought that is easier to think when you consider some grant murder story, than when you read a book such as this, portraying something so close to every one’s reality.
You may have noticed that I am quite speechless, that I keep repeating this same thing, this big impression the book has left me with. But it is true, and I wanted to try to capture that reaction straight away. I do hope I get to discuss this novella with some of you, take it apart a little, but I think I might need others to analyse it for me. All I know is I was touched, in a blissful and a sad manner.
There was one this I had some difficulty with, and that is the coda, the last few pages which are tied to the story, but in a way that I cannot reveal here, almost separate as well. I am not sure what to do with them. On the one hand it gives the story that much more of an unsettled feeling. On the other, I am left to wonder if the story would not have been stronger without those pages?
Nevertheless, this novella gets a Highly recommended. In bold, nonetheless. And I do hope, that if there are any others out there, that were, like me, not as eager to read this than the other Peirene titles, that they will give it a try nonetheless. Because Next World Novella truly deserves to be read.