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Soul of Wood: And Other Stories (New York Review Books)by Jakov Lind
Synopses & Reviews
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 (1927-2007) was born Heinz Jakov Landwirth into an educated Jewish family in Vienna. After the 1938 Anschluss, Lind and one of his sisters were sent for safety to Holland, from where they were join their parents in Palestine; this proved impossible, and following the occupation of Holland, Lind, who was already fluent in Dutch, had no choice but to go into hiding. Taking the name of Jan Gerrit Overbeek—“sailing under a false self,” as he would later describe it—he worked on a barge traveling up and down the Rhine. When the Allies began to bomb the industrial cities of the Rhine, Lind/Overbeek moved to Germany, where he was employed by a Nazi government ministry in Berlin. The end of the war allowed Lind to join his family in Palestine, but it was not long before he returned to Europe, studying drama in Vienna and, in 1954, settling in London, where he began work on the stories that were published in 1962 as Soul of Wood. Linds other books in German include the novels Landscape in Concrete and Ergo and, in English, four volumes of autobiography, two novels, and numerous stories. Lind was also a playwright and film director, as well as a talented visual artist. In a eulogy delivered at Linds funeral, Anthony Rudolf described Lind as “A coyote, a trickster…. A wicked smile played around his mouth, while witty aphorisms and deep insights tripped off his lips. He emanated inner strength—and an electric intelligence that we all wanted to emulate.”
Ralph Manheim (1907-1992) translated more than one hundred books, primarily from German and French. His first major commision was Mein Kampf, which was published in the United States in 1943. Among his prizewinning translations are The Tin Drum by Günter Grass, Castle to Castle by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, and A Sorrow Beyond Dreams by Peter Handke. After his death, the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for lifetime acheivement in translation—which he won in 1988—was renamed in his memory.
Michael Krüger is the editor of the journal Akzente and has been director of the German publishing house Carl Hanser Verlag since 1986. He has published several works of fiction and poetry, and was awarded the Prix Medicis étranger in 1996 for his novel Himmelfarb.
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