The Interpreter

The Interpreter : A Novel

By (author)  , Translated by 

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Product details

  • Hardback | 326 pages
  • 140 x 220mm
  • San Diego, United Kingdom
  • German
  • 0151448825
  • 9780151448821

Review Text

A grueling novel in the form of a succession of flashbacks, in which a Russian refugee probes her lonely anorexic childhood in post-WW II Germany and a love affair with a Soviet writer. Natalia Wdowin (the narrator shares - with minor variation - the author's name) has early memories: of longing to be German; and yet of sentimental attachments to her actual Russian heritage. Desperate and hyperimaginative, she attempts to win over conformist German classmates with elaborate fictions, but instead she leaves them dumbfounded, cruel. Her real recollections of childhood are of countless rejections, regurgitated meals and night terrors, compounded by her mother's suicide and her father's quasi-desertion. As an adult, Natalia works as an interpreter on the trade conference circuit, traveling to a pale, tourist-pretty Soviet Union. Steadied by bland routine and a mild-mannered lover, Natalia feels - at last - almost normal. Then she meets L, a famous Soviet writer who engulfs her in a love as vast and overstated as Russia itself. During several stays in his apartment in Moscow's writers' quarter, Natalia alternately luxuriates in and is suffocated by the richness of literary and emotional life and L's hyperbolic love for her. Her found-Russia has a deep timbre of vitality that's lacking in Germany, but Natalia fears losing her identity, her hard-won sense of irony, in the emotional exuberance of it all. This tenacious self-examination unfolds in dense, discursive prose that often soars but sometimes lapses into a word-drunk turgidity (e.g., a self-description: "Inexterminable, ineffaceable, ineradicable, resilient and tenacious as an ameba, filled with an obsessive self. pity which my hallucinating flesh exudes like a repulsive stench"). Still, Natalia's catalogue of suffering and hope, filtered through the lens of her brilliant and hysterical sensibility, makes a compelling, unsparing psychological portrait. (Kirkus Reviews)
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