Soul of Wood

And Other Stories

By Jakov Lind; Ralph Manheim (Translator); Michael Kruger (Introduction by)
(New York Review of Books, Paperback, 9781590173305, 190pp.)

Publication Date: January 5, 2010

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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the November 2009 Indie Next List
“Soul of Wood is a careening, delirious, madcap tour through the rattled soul of mid-20th century Europe. The book's greatest achievement is the titular novella in which a disabled veteran fights for survival in the absurdist inferno of Austria under the Third Reich, where, finally, a handful of megalomaniacs compete to take possession of a sort of miraculous young Jew.”
-- Adam Walter, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA


Description
"Soul of Wood" made Jakov Lind's reputation as one of the most boldy imaginative postwar writers and it remains his most celebrated achievement. In the title novella and six subsequent stories, Lind distorts and refashions reality to make the deepest horrors of the twentieth century his own.

Set during World War II, "Soul of Wood" is the story of Wohlbrecht, a peg-legged veteran of World War I, who smuggles Anton Barth, a paralyzed Jewish boy, to a mountain hideout after the boy's parents have been sent to their deaths. Abandoning the helpless boy to the elements, Wohlbrecht returns to Vienna, where, having been committed to an insane asylum, he helps the chief psychiatrist to administer lethal injections to other patients. But Germany is collapsing and the war will soon be over. The one way, Wohlbrecht realizes, that he can evade retribution is by returning to the woods to redeem "his" hidden Jew. Others, however, have had the same bright idea.



About the Author
Jakov Lind (1926-2007) was born Heinz Jakov Landwirth in Vienna in 1927 to an assimilated Jewish family. Arriving in the Netherlands as a part of the Kindertransport in 1939, Lind survived the Second World War by fleeing into Germany, where he disguised himself as a Dutch deckhand on a barge on the Rhine. Following the war, he spent several years in Israel and Vienna before finally settling in London in 1954. It was in London that he wrote, first in German and later in English, the novels, short stories, and autobiographies that made his reputation, including his masterpieces; Landscape in Concrete, Ergo (forthcoming from Open Letter), and Soul of Wood. Regarded in his lifetime as a successor to Beckett and Kafka, Lind was posthumously awarded the Theodor Kramer Prize in 2007.

Ralph Manheim (b. New York, 1907) was an American translator of German and French literature. His translating career began with a translation of Mein Kempf in which Manheim set out to reproduce Hitler's idiosyncratic, often grammatically aberrant style. In collaboration with John Willett, Manheim translated the works of Bertolt Brecht. The Pen/Ralph Manheim Medal for translation, inaugurated in his name, is a major lifetime achievement award in the field of translation. He himself won its predecessor, the PEN translation prize, in 1964. Manheim died in Cambridge in 1992. He was 85.

Michael Kruger was the director of Hanser Publishing until his retirement in 2013. He is the author of many books of poetry and prose. He lives in Munich.
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