Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig

Maybe This Time - Alois HotschnigMaybe This Time – Alois Hotschnig
Translated from the Austrian German Die Kinder beruhigte das nicht by Tess Lewis

Peirene Press, 2011
Buy: Amazon | Bookdepository *

Talk about unsettling stories. I’m quite sure Alois Hotschnig will give many an author a run for his money in this genre.

I postponed reading this book for the longest time. It was because every review of it talked about the eery qualities of the stories. The ways they made you think, and constantly reconsider. Zee even mentioned that she wasn’t sure if she should read them before bedtime. Knowing how I often react to the spooky stories, I considered if I should read them at all, given that I’m easily disturbed enough not to be able to sleep.

Luckily, I challenged myself. And here I am, still able to sleep. Having read Maybe This Time, I can promise you a lot of things: eery stories, unsettling ones, a lot of ambiguity, or as Caroline perfectly defines it: they’re what the Germans call unheimlich. But somehow, I was still able to sleep at night. Perhaps I can handle the stories that are creepy in a “making you question and think about everything around you” way better, somehow. I’m rather glad I handled this collection so well. You might even say I felt a little proud.

It is ambiguity that is the real strength of this collection of short stories. In almost every story, you start out with a situation that is unsettling in itself, before things turn out to be rather different, yet never in a less unsettling way.

A good example of this is the way in which the story “Two Ways of Leaving” first makes you think of a stalker who visits her former girlfriend’s house, before realising that perhaps it is the stalker that is being played by his ex-girlfriend. For more on this particular story, be sure to visit David’s Sunday Story Society post of a few weeks ago.

What I found most interesting about Maybe This Time was that so many stories deal with alienation and identity confusion, or even identity loss. The stories offer you a lot to ponder in that respect. What makes them so very eery is that all situations are somewhat magical in their ambiguity, and yet they are all very much related to the real world. Set in that world. And sometimes so realistic that they’re quite scary.

Unfortunately I did not think this collection was perfect. I realise that this was more my own fault, and dependant on my own taste, than the quality of the stories. I just don’t always handle ambiguity very well. These stories never provide clear answers, nor do they end on a note that makes you feel that you have come to understand them from beginning to end. This ambiguity is its strength; as the stories change perspective you learn to ask even more questions about what exactly is going on. But for me, personally, it also meant that some of them left me feeling a little empty by the end: what exactly was I supposed to make of them? I should note that this was more often the case with the shorter stories in the collection, which I’ve learned are usually the stories I have most trouble with in short story collections in general. I loved some of the stories, and I’d love to read them again and see what questions I am left with on a second reading. But I felt a little apathetic about some others.

RIP VII button 2I read Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig as part of R.I.P. VII as hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings. Click over to the RIP Review Sitefor more reads with a autumnal feel.

Other Opinions: Caribousmomchasing bawa, The Worm Hole, Tony’s Reading List, Notes from the North, Beauty is a Sleeping Cat, Andrew Blackman.
Did I miss your post? Let me know and I will add it to the list.

* These are affiliate links. If you buy a product through either of them, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price.

11 thoughts on “Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig

  1. Caroline

    I think I understand why they made you feel empty. They are not very deep psychologically, are they? The eerie is in the atmopshere, the behaviour. We are left outside of the characters if I remember correctly. I liked them but I didn’t connect with the stories.

  2. zibilee

    Ambiguity is sometimes hit or miss for me, and in an entire story collection, I might end up feeling that some bits were left too unfinished for my tastes, but this does sound very good, and I have read a lot of other reviews that make this book sound like something that I would want to read. Great job parsing all this out today, Iris!

  3. Andrew Blackman

    Nice review, Iris, and thanks for linking to my post. It’s an interesting point you make about the shorter stories. I often find that too. When I’m reading online, short short stories work really well, but in a collection they often feel the least satisfying. I suppose it’s just difficult to get the depth into a really short story. I don’t really remember having that problem with this particular collection, but I do know what you mean.

  4. Charlie

    Thanks for the link! While the ambiguity is weird, scary even after you’ve finished it, it does make you continue thinking about the stories, and I’d say it also helps you remember each one, because so often short story collections can get muddled over time. It is a good kind of eerie though, as you’ve suggested. Spooky, but the sort you don’t mind thinking about.

  5. Chinoiseries

    I’m guessing that their vagueness (the parts that were left to your imagination) felt somehow dreamlike? Or nightmarish, if I have to be exact. I’ve got an issue with really short stories too. It just seems that those never get the hang of developing sufficiently in the few pages that they cover.

    Last summer I read a short story collection by Peter Stamm, which is contemporary fiction, but also rather dreamlike and slightly depressing. His longer short stories felt like they’d been cut off, and none of them had a real ending, in my opinion. Writing short stories requires skill, and not everyone excels at it.

  6. sakura

    I found the ambiguity of the stories enhanced their creepiness and really enjoyed this collection. But I do agree that sometimes reading short story collections can be hit and miss is you read them all in one go.

  7. lynnsbooks

    I never really read short stories because I don’t feel like there’s enough time to develop the characters, scene or plot so they usually have to rely on some sort of quick fix or they feel a bit ‘grab and run’. Even if I see a collection with authors that I really like I still hesitate to pick it up and in fact end up not doing so.
    Thanks for the review.

  8. Pingback: R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril VII Wrap-Up | Iris on Books

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