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Isle of the Dead (Swiss Literature) (Swiss Literature Series) Hardcover – 18 Nov 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 120 pages
  • Publisher: Dalkey Archive Press; 1 edition (18 Nov. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1564786854
  • ISBN-13: 978-1564786852
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,070,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Gerhard Meier was born in 1917. Spending six months in a sanatorium for tuberculosis made him decide to leave his job at a lamp factory and devote himself exclusively to writing. He produced a steady stream of poetry and fiction thereafter, dying in 2008 at the age of 91. Burton Pike is Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and German at CUNY. He co-translated Musil s The Man without Qualities and Rilke s novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. His translations have appeared in numerous periodicals.

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Format: Hardcover
Given his reputation as a writer's writer, Gerhard Meier is one of the least well-known contemporary German-language writers in the Anglophone world. A Swiss, Meier came to prominence in 1979 with the novel 'Toteninsel', the first of what was eventually to be a series of four separate but linked books. 'Isle of the Dead' is the first English translation of what is now regarded as a milestone in modern Swiss literature.

It's one of those books in which by design almost nothing happens. Two men in their early sixties take an uneventful walk through the Swiss town of Amrein. They are locals who have known each other for years and did their military service together. One talks, disconnectedly, about details and incidents from family and local history: the other listens, muses, responds, records. The book is short - a hundred pages - but so densely woven from repeated motifs that slow reading - and a second reading - are advised to savour the patterns that Meier has woven out of unremarkable memories and anecdotes and the banal facts of light and weather.

Like its author, who in spite of winning major prizes and the admiration of Peter Handke kept a studiedly low profile, 'Isle of the Dead' is deliberately provincial in subject matter and low key in style. At first the title seems an odd one: but it slowly becomes apparent that the world that Baur the talker reveals in scraps and anecdotes and on which Bindschadler the thinker reflects is death-haunted as well as vital. Meier has the phenomenologist's habit of giving equal attention to everything, without particular emphasis or exaggeration. The result has more in common with the texture of music or tapestry than the linear motion and clear narrative arc of the conventional novel.

Readers of Handke, Sebald, Stifter, and Proust should find Meier congenial. This translation by Burton Pike is a service to English-speaking readers.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Walk With Grandpa 25 Jan. 2015
By James W. Fonseca - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Two elderly gentlemen walk through a small Swiss town talking about life. One does almost all the talking and, as you would expect, they mostly talk about the past and not too much about the future, and with a bit of repetition. But they intersperse their comments with reflections on literature and poetry, music and painting (the title is taken from a famous painting on the cover). They both grew up in the area so they compare the current landscape to that of the past. The book is translated from the German and it is short, 100 pages, about the length of an afternoon walk. I saw the main theme as homage to the ways of life in a small Swiss town. Kind of like taking a walk with an erudite Grandpa.
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