18 January 13 | Chad W. Post

The latest addition to our Reviews Section is a piece by Lisa Boscov-Ellen on Thomas Glavinic’s The Camera Killer, which is translated from the German by John Brownjohn and published by AmazonCrossing.

Lisa Boscov-Ellen is another MA student here at the University of Rochester, and translates from Spanish. She was also in my class last semester (and this one!), where she wrote this fairly negative review . . .

The Camera Killer by Austrian writer Thomas Glavinic, translated by John Brownjohn, is a psychological thriller that was first published in 2003 as Der Kameramörde. The unnamed narrator travels to the region of West Styria over Easter weekend with his “partner” Sonja to stay with their friends, Eva and Heinrich Stubenrauch. Shortly after they arrive, the two couples hear about an appalling crime committed nearby, which they and the rest of the public are compelled to follow in the news over the weekend, each with differing reactions. The original report is that a man forced “two children of seven and eight to kill themselves by jumping from tall trees and filmed those crimes with a video camera. A third boy, the deceased children’s nine-year-old brother, managed to escape.” More information is gradually released, such as the fact that the surviving boy is in an induced coma and the mother has been institutionalized, and the video of the crime is even broadcast to the public on the news. The novel (really on the border of being a novella) focuses on the reactions of the four individuals as they follow the manhunt and the media sensationalism of the event.

The disturbing premise is certainly absorbing, and the book is by no means a standard thriller or detective story. However, despite the low page count (it’s just over 100 pages), the book seemed to drag on. Glavinic appears to be equally interested in the ability of his characters to continue on with their ordinary activities and concerns in spite of the horror that edges in. A pretty standard passage reads as follows:

“Heinrich and I put up the net. We marked out the court with discarded articles of clothing and broken twigs stuck in the ground (those of the previous day that had been dislodged by the wind or the nocturnal rainstorm). We also flattened the grass at the edge of the court by treading it down.”

“The wicker basket was unpacked by my partner and Eva. My partner extolled the fact that our short walk there had refreshed her and said we should at once devote the time that remained before the storm broke to playing doubles. We duly did so. Team Heinrich/self beat Team Eva/my partner 15:6. Heinrich pronounced this pointless; the difference in level of ability was too glaring. So we changed partners. My partner and I were narrowly defeated (11:15) by the Stubenrauchs.”

The book follows events like this, with a focus on minute and mundane details, until an arrest is made.

Click here to read the full review.

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