No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Monday, December 22, 2014

2014/43: Therapy -- Sebastian Fitzek

‘She wanted to know why her story only had two chapters. She said, “I want to be well again. What happens next?” She told me to finish the book.’

‘In other words, you were instructed to keep writing by a character created by you?’

‘Precisely. In any case, I was perfectly honest with her. I told her I didn't know how the story ended, so there was nothing I could do.’

‘What did she say to that?’ ‘She took me by the hand and promised to show me where the story started. She said, “Maybe you'll think of an ending when you see where it all began.”’ [loc. 956]

Viktor Larenz, a reputable psychiatrist, has retreated to an isolated North Sea island in an attempt to recover from the disappearance of his adolescent daughter Josy and the subsequent separation from his wife Isabell. A mysterious woman, Anna Glass, arrives, hoping for help: she’s an author and the characters she writes about come to life. There’s a story she’s been working on about a young girl with a strange illness, who has disappeared. Can Larenz help her to unravel her delusions?

Josy was ill: she disappeared from the doctor’s consulting room, and nobody would believe that she’d been there at all. And the little girl in Anna’s story has more than just illness and disappearance in common with Josy. There has to be some connection, some solution … Larenz realises that he is hoping for healing for himself, and not for Anna: a terrible betrayal of the doctor-patient relationship. But his confusion and mental deterioration might make him more susceptible to delusions of his own.

Therapy is translated from the German, and the prose is serviceable though seldom lively. Fitzek evokes the windswept desolation of the island, and the ominous encounters between Larenz and the locals, admirably. But I did not like this book: it felt at once vague and heavy-handed, and I could find nothing sympathetic in Larenz. Anna is a cipher, barely a character at all (for reasons that do actually make sense in this context) and none of the other characters make more than a brief appearance.

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