Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Review (translated) of Pariah from the German newspaper Badische Zeitung

One of my best friends since college, Alan Luedeking, who's fluent in at least 3 languages (English, German, Spanish) and close with several others, translated the review of Pariah that ran in the German newspaper, Badische Zeitung. A quick note about Al: we've been buddies since our days in Boulder, Colorado, and Al's been my unofficial editor on almost everything I've written. The reason Al's fluent in German and Spanish is his parents fled Nazi Germany, and even though they're Jewish, they ended up in a detainment camp for German refuges in Texas. When they got out of there, they went to Nicaragua, where starting from nothing built a successful industrial machinery company. When the Sandinistas took over, they then fled to Miami, where they again started from close to nothing and built yet another successful company. Back in Boulder, when I'd be hanging around Al's apartment, and he'd be talking with his parents back in Nicaragua, the conversation would switch rapidly between English, Spanish, and German to confuse anyone from the government who might be listening in.

Here's Al's translation: 

Grandiose anti-bestseller "Pariah" reviewed by Joachim Schneider

There are books which will never make it onto the bestseller list, which their authors know full well, particularly if they deliberately avoid the common clichés. Dave Zeltserman has made himself a game out of that, leaving a bestseller that in two weeks sells a million copies that almost went on his account to [instead] eke out a niche place. Too dark and too angry is “Pariah”, too little romantic. It offers too little identification potential to rip out a place for itself in the criminal genre market.

Yet all could have been good, since the beginning constellation has everything that a fat criminal menu needs. Kyle Nevin is released from the slammer after 8 years. Only one goal drives him: revenge on his boss and mentor who delivered him to the knife. A mobster, as he is in the book, big-mouthed and reckless. An Irish macho, who at times bucks out of the traces but in principle a contemporary to whom one can relate—but one must never cross him.

Rough but heartily goes it in South Boston among the Irish, thus the cliché, but Zeltserman, who sets a hellish pace, lets brutal outbursts flow in from the outset, and it soon becomes clear that here no ordinary or even romantic Gangster-Revenge-Piece will be given, rather a provocation. Here frontiers are explored, and the bearable stretched to its uttermost limits. The first-person narrator outs himself as an unscrupulous scumbag who without a flickering an eyelash tramples over corpses.

In order to finance his revenge mission, Nevin plans a child’s kidnapping, hires his brother as accomplice like in old times, not without destroying his new suburban lifestyle in the process—and not only that. The ten-year-old kidnap victim, a hemophiliac, dies, as the gangster rips out one of his teeth. At that, the oh-so-smart Nevin lets an accomplice pull one over on him. The coup goes thoroughly to shit. No, nobody, wishes this character anything good, not even his [female] lawyer who, on the grounds of an FBI deception garners him an acquittal. This acquittal marks the starting shot to a writing career, after the the big-mouth writes an article about the world that the New York Times actually publishes and which attracts the attention of a crafty publisher.

Admittedly, the public knows much less about this monster than the reader (another slick twist of this novel), yet that the media and public switch off understanding and morality when it comes to a publishing sensation, in terms of authenticity—that one buys from Zeltserman immediately. For what reasons Nevin’s writing career falters, surpasses all imagination in cynicism. In the early morning tv shows the bad guy is unmasked, as what we will not betray. Media satire, metacriminality, fierce thriller, all wrapped up in Zeltserman's terrific book that will now lead a shadowy existence because all traces of romanticism have been eradicated. Nevertheless, a trace of black humor flashes through his lunatic wit.


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