Funeral for a Dog

( 2 )

Overview

“The kind of writing that makes us want to read the whole book as soon as possible; a shot of adrenaline that immediately takes us to a new world.”—David Varno, Words Without Borders
Journalist Daniel Mandelkern leaves Hamburg on assignment to interview Dirk Svensson, a reclusive children's book author who lives alone on the Italian side of Lake Lugano with his three-legged dog. Mandelkern has been quarreling with his wife (who is also his editor); he suspects she has other reasons for sending him away.After ...

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Funeral for a Dog

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Overview

“The kind of writing that makes us want to read the whole book as soon as possible; a shot of adrenaline that immediately takes us to a new world.”—David Varno, Words Without Borders
Journalist Daniel Mandelkern leaves Hamburg on assignment to interview Dirk Svensson, a reclusive children's book author who lives alone on the Italian side of Lake Lugano with his three-legged dog. Mandelkern has been quarreling with his wife (who is also his editor); he suspects she has other reasons for sending him away.After stumbling on a manuscript of Svensson's about a complicated ménage a trois, Mandelkern is plunged into mysteries past and present. Rich with anthropological and literary allusion, this prize-winning debut set in Europe, Brazil, and New York, tells the parallel stories of two writers struggling with the burden of the past and the uncertainties of the future. Funeral for a Dog won the prestigious Uwe-Johnson Prize, and critics raved: "Pletzinger's debut is a real smash hit. It's been a long time since a young German writer has thrown himself into the hurly-burly of life and literature with so much intelligence and bravado" (Wolfgang Hobel, Der Spiegel).

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When we first meet Daniel Mandelkern, an ethnologist moonlighting as a journalist for his newspaper editor wife, it's through a series of postcards that the reader will spend the rest of this vibrant, intricate novel untangling. Dispatched to profile children's book author Dirk Svensson, who reportedly lives with his three-legged dog near Milan, Mandelkern is nonplussed with his assignment but anxious to escape his wife. What unfolds, through flashbacks, Mandelkern's observations, and excerpts from Svensson's unpublished memoir, is a complex story about how people deal with love and loss--though it doesn't hurt to remember what Svensson's old friend and lover, says: "stories are one third truth, one third fiction and one third the attempt to glue the other two with words." Pletzinger does an admirable job of revealing intriguing characters without being heavy-handed or coy, and the story he tells is smart and well paced, no small feat considering the large scope and the messiness of the lives chronicled. It's a smart and rewarding debut marked by accomplished writing, a slick translation, and intelligent takes on the absurdities of contemporary life. (Mar.)
Quarterly Conversation
In addition to being compelling on structural and philosophical levels, Funeral for a Dog is damn good on a line-by-line basis. Pletzinger’s writing (and Ross Benjamin’s translation) is graceful and evocative. Mandelkern’s voice is great, Svensson’s sections are sharp. It’s clear why this won the Uwe Johnson Prize and why Pletzinger is considered to be one of the most promising German writers of his generation.— Chad Post
Chad Post - Quarterly Conversation
“In addition to being compelling on structural and philosophical levels, Funeral for a Dog is damn good on a line-by-line basis. Pletzinger’s writing (and Ross Benjamin’s translation) is graceful and evocative. Mandelkern’s voice is great, Svensson’s sections are sharp. It’s clear why this won the Uwe Johnson Prize and why Pletzinger is considered to be one of the most promising German writers of his generation.”
Gerald Stern
“An incredibly moving, fascinating and original novel. We are looking at a young novelist who is going to make an amazing mark on not only German literature, but on world literature. I can’t praise it enough.”
John Wray
“Funeral for a Dog is an unalloyed delight. If Thomas Pletzinger’s ballsy novel is any indication, things are happening in German fiction right now that we owe it to ourselves to pay attention to.”
Jess Row
“Funeral for a Dog bristles with wit and intellectual ferocity: a comic novel full of insights into the predicaments of our age. Like Etgar Keret or Haruki Murakami, Pletzinger has found a translator who bridges the distance between two languages and almost makes it disappear. He should win a large, and devoted, American readership.”
Tom Bissell
“Thomas Pletzinger’s Funeral for a Dog is a formally innovative, rigorously intellectual novel that also happens to be extremely funny and tender. Another way of saying this is that it’s the rare experimental novel that, astonishingly, does not have its head up its own ass. Pletzinger has looked at the United States just as hard as he’s looked at everything else, and allowed me to see my own country in a new way.”
Kirkus Reviews

All narrators are unreliable in this bewildering fencing match between a children's-book author and a cultural anthropologist-turned-journalist.

The debut novel by Pletzinger, translated from the German, employs a surprisingly unique style to advance its unusual tale of storytellers and their self-deceptions. It opens with seven postcards written by journalist Daniel Mandelkern to his estranged wife Elisabeth, who also happens to be his editor. Daniel is chafing because he's been assigned to interview the mysterious and reclusive children's-book writer Dirk Svensson, author of the world-famous The Story of Leo and the Notmuch. "For almost two years, I've been writing for Elisabeth's editorial department," he complains. "I've questioned and profiled people for her, I've taken down life stories in shorthand and summarized worldviews, I've fulfilled her requests...I take notes because I want to put things in order (I want to sort myself out)."With his wife's dried blood—left unexplained—on his hands, Mandelkern reluctantly journeys to a remote area northeast of Milan, where he's met by a taciturn Svensson, his three-legged dog, a small but pretty Finnish woman and a young boy. The woman's relationship to the writer is unclear, but she provides insight into Svensson's character. "Everything Svensson says is made up, Manteli, you can write that," she says. "Svensson collects fragments and assembles them into a world he can bear."Along the way, Mandelkern meets an insane neighbor; finds a house full of artwork surrounding a person who cannot paint; and unearths a mysterious manuscript.

The story often meanders and can be somewhat frustrating, but those who make it to the end of this eccentric tale will have enjoyed an undeniably uncommon journey. Pletzinger is a unique young voice emerging from the hotbed of the German literary scene.

Leland de la Durantaye
…full of strangeness, but it is not satirical strangeness or magical strangeness. It is, instead, realistic, and its main theme is the strangeness of loss…brilliantly constructed and finely written. The novel's greatest success is its intricacy of plot—an intricacy that is revealed only gradually. After a thoroughly confusing first few pages, the narrative settles into a story that is easy to follow and that slowly and artfully arrives at the point where those first confusing words make rich and moving sense…Ross Benjamin's translation is stunningly fine, capturing as it does the wry wit, gentle despair and merry confusion of the original.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393337259
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/28/2011
  • Pages: 322
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Born in 1975, Thomas Pletzinger has won several awards for his writing, including fellowships and teaching positions at the University of Iowa, New York University, and Grinnell College. He lives in Berlin.

Ross Benjaminis an acclaimed German-language translator. He lives in Nyack, New York.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2013

    I personally fell in love with this book and all the simple symb

    I personally fell in love with this book and all the simple symbolism. It is hard to read at first but once you dive into the authors psyche you experience more then just a plot you feel his soul. Its deff a good read for a more intuitive feeling based individual. Anyway, i though the book was really good.  

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  • Posted April 18, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Funeral For A Dog

    It is hard for me to describe Funeral For A Dog since I haven't never read something like this. A journalist is sent out to interview a reclusive children's book author. Daniel (the journalist) tells his story as though they are journal entries and sometimes goes off on tangents. The author's story is told as though he is writing a book. And somehow these two meet and write about the same things differently. Does that make sense? It was not an easy read and certainly not for everyone, including myself.

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