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Jakov Lind’s Soul of Wood brought its author immediate fame when it was published in Germany in 1962, earning him a reputation as one of the most boldly imaginative postwar German writers. In the title novella and six stories here, Lind deals masterfully with a world of horror through fantasy, paradox, and sardonic distortion and brings to life the agonies of twentieth-century Europe.
In “Soul of Wood,” Anton Barth, a paralyzed young Jew, is smuggled to safety as his parents are shipped off to their deaths. Then, however, we discover that Barth’s purported protector, the wooden-legged war invalid Wohlbrecht–who is the deeply unreliable, self-pitying, half-mad narrator of the story–has simply abandoned the helpless boy in a forest cabin. Wohlbrecht returns to Vienna, where he is soon busy assisting a psychiatrist in administering lethal injections to his patients. But as Germany collapses before the Russian offensive, Wohlbrecht rushes back to the woods in the frenzied hope that he will somehow be able to reclaim “his” Jew, and so preserve himself from retribution. Horrifying and humorous by turns, Lind’s stories alternate scenes of pure savagery and madcap hilarity, displaying a grim inventiveness unmatched in modern literature.