Strange Traffic: Stories

Strange Traffic: Stories

by Irene Dische
     
 

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The stories of Irene Dische deal in the emotional contraband people inadvertently smuggle - guilt, love, loyalty, deceit, disappointment: A staid and affluent American Jew returns to Germany to claim an ambiguous patrimony. A homosexual restaurateur gets the chance to cook another meal for his first lover. Ghosts haunt the New York apartment of a retired Viennese…  See more details below

Overview

The stories of Irene Dische deal in the emotional contraband people inadvertently smuggle - guilt, love, loyalty, deceit, disappointment: A staid and affluent American Jew returns to Germany to claim an ambiguous patrimony. A homosexual restaurateur gets the chance to cook another meal for his first lover. Ghosts haunt the New York apartment of a retired Viennese scientist whose past has been obscured by time and self-delusion. With biting humor, Dische recounts the small tragedies of people condemned by the vagaries of modern existence to a restless mobility: the Polish maid in Berlin; the Irish nanny in New York; the American hippie in Tripoli; the East German defector born in Mongolia, bred in Shanghai, and with mistresses and bank accounts in three countries. Defectors, tourists, refugees - wishful travelers all - expect freedom and change to lift their spirits, only to stumble under the weight of nostalgia. But what they miss are not the predictable objects of consolation - the gold wedding ring, the fading love letter, the home left behind - but their lifelong habits of paranoia. Dische's prose is as highly and strangely flavored as the lives and circumstances she describes. Sure-handed and quirky, driven by a provocative eccentricity of vision, Irene Dische's stories signal the arrival of a major new literary talent.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
All the characters in these 11 stories from an American writer living in Berlin find it impossible to make a clean break with the past. Those with romantic notions about freedom are invariably disappointed, although the reader is not, since Dische combines stylish prose with dark wit. ``Portrait of a Defection'' is the author's quintessential indictment of idealism: this story of an East German mathematician's methodical escape to the West opens with the words: ``Once upon a time...'' Enthusing to the Western press, the man announces, ``It's like a fairy tale come true!''-but his idyll proves short-lived when his elderly mother, with whom he has shared a dreary apartment for years, announces that she is defecting, too. Like many others in this collection, the man can change his setting but can't alter his essential condition. Similarly, in ``The Smuggled Wedding Ring,'' a couple who have fled Russia find themselves longing for the heavy gold ring-and all its symbolic baggage-that they left behind. Negative energy also drives the collection's opener, ``Prior Conviction,'' the tale of a cynic who preaches that ``rejection is much more important than affection.'' Even the elderly players in these stories prove to have learned little from their journies through life. Dische draws her international cast and their ironic tales of disillusion with distinctive strokes and sharp clarity, producing sharply individualistic, memorable portraits. Rights: Rowahlt Verlag; author tour. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Dische, an American whose books are best sellers in Europe-her novel Pious Secrets (Viking, 1991) was translated into 15 languages-captures in many of her works the flavor of the German-Jewish neighborhood where she grew up. The result here is a warm and funny look at how the Old World influences events in the New, as tragedies, love, and loyalty are treated with a refreshing openness and sense of humor. In "The Doctor Needs a Home," for instance, Dische takes a warm-hearted look at her characters' frailties, while the title story contrasts Jews in Germany and America. "Innocent Vacation," which examines the author's own trip to Libya during the Ghaddafi revolution, shows that we can keep our sanity in an insane world by maintaining our innocence and learning to laugh. Blending satire and pathos, Dische's stories recall John Cheever's. Recommended for all libraries.-Vicki Cecil, Hartford City P.L., Ind.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805041736
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
08/28/1997
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.07(w) x 7.97(h) x 0.67(d)

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