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Word Count: 779
Running out of wordsLuckby Gert Hofmann trans Michael Hofmann267pp Harvill Gert Hofmann was a master of deadpan humour which revealed not merely pain but an existential void at the heart of human ex-perience His 1985 novel The Parable of the Blind was an outstanding Beckettian take on Pieter Bruegels painting of blind beggars Luck published in German in 1992 a year before his death also has overtones of Samuel Beckett but Hofmann has a lighter touch and the world he describes is all too recognisable This is a story of family and marital breakdown in small-town Germany as seen from the unhappy childrens viewpoint with the son as the narrator and his kid sister in her innocence asking all the most pertinent questions Father is fat and 50 not only a failed writer but an unable one a thinker bereft of thoughts Even words no longer enter his head and when they occasionally do he cannot fit them into a wider context But Father has not given up he is still trying to live up to his chosen identity Giving up would be the final humiliation His hero is Thomas Mann and long ago he had it in mind to write something like The Magic Mountain considered the apex of literary achievement by generations of Germans but far from producing a mountain all he brings forth is the occasional mouse Meanwhile Mother a practical German Hausfrau and sole breadwinner has long since moved out of the marital bedroom lost patience with Father and found herself a new admirer Herr Herkenrath may also be fat and 50 but at least he has a steady wage and makes her feel like a woman Mother has now decided that Father and son should move out and Herr Herkenrath should move in The action such as it is all takes place on the final day The new man and a removal van are due to arrive later Meanwhile
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