Not too long ago, I noted that the Sueddeutsche Zeitung was publishing a set of 50 great novels of the twentieth century. I got into the game a little bit late, but since then I have been more-or-less keeping up with their pace of one a week, largely by the not terribly edifying expedient of sticking to the shorter ones. It’s been a delight.
Despite their no doubt monumental efforts, the Sueddeutsche editors let a stinker through. Lucky number 13 on the list, Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (The Keeper’s Fear of the Penalty). The novel purports to show a man’s disintegration, before and after he commits a senseless crime. Trouble is, the crime really is senseless, making it beyond the author’s capability of approaching with his art. The book turns on the sentence, “Suddenly he strangled her.” Snoopy could write as well.
As the jacket copy says, the narrator wanders aimlessly through Vienna and everything irritates him. Most everything about the book irritates the reader as the story wanders aimlessly through the pages. Most irritating were the typographic tricks toward the end that were supposed to simulate the narrator’s almost completed disintegration. Maybe this sort of thing was daring or something similar when the book was published in 1970, but now it just looks silly.
There are 49 other books in the series, no need to bother with this one.