Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Austrian”

Karo’s #CBR4 Reviews #18, 19, 20: “Der Metzger muss nachsitzen”, “Der Metzger sieht rot” and “Der Metzger bricht das Eis” by Thomas Raab

Since I already reviewed one book of the series, most of the general information is out there, so it makes sense to cram all three books into one review.
Once started on this Austrian detective series, neither me nor my sister could stop reading, and so we spent our summer devouring all the missing titles. I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: Thomas Raab is a master of language. He’s overdoing it, but in such a clever way that you don’t mind it all. Willibald Adrian Metzger is a loveable anachronism (even in Austria, which in the eyes of a German person generally seems quite eccentric with its funny dialect and odd little words – and there you have your German/Austrian stereotyping in a nutshell, you’re welcome). He takes it slow, works as a restorer, doesn’t own a mobile phone and is still getting used to accomodating the woman of his dreams in his life. But bad things keep getting in his way, and he muddles his way through them.
In Der Metzger muss nachsitzen, the first in the series, Willibald’s best-forgotten past catches up with him, in the shape of his old school bully. While trying to help his detective classmate solve the case, der Metzger needs to confront his past, which he’d rather not, but he comes out stronger and with the woman of his dreams by his side. What sounds like a classic storyline is very funny, sweet and at times critical. All in just the right amount.
Der Metzger sieht rot sees Willibald in a surrounding that is definitely not his cup of tea: As a witness to death and intrigue on the football pitch. Dragged into the underbelly of modern football culture by his beloved, he gets into mortal danger while having to deal with Danjela’s near-death. Once again, there’s a slowness and deliberation to Metzger’s journey that is quite intriguing and sweet. In this novel, though, Raab’s criticism of society, morals and politics is being voiced much more clearly, and the novel makes for a much darker read with an ending that would fit any contemporary thriller.
Raab’s latest offering, Der Metzger bricht das Eis, is set in yet another part of Austrian life: A ski resort. When a homeless person saves a child’s life in front of Willibald’s eyesand is later found murdered, the reluctant hero takes his friends to the ski resort that seems to be connected to the dead man. Much danger and hilarity ensues, a family history is revealed and another one exposed, and der Metzger gets in more trouble than is good for his or his reader’s nerves. All in a day’s work.
It’s probably just as well I’m out of Metzger novels for now, because it is possible to get enough after a few books. They are brilliant in themselves, but any crime series runs the risk of seeming a bit too formulaic after a few books, so it’s a good idea to take a break. Also, and this is something I’ve had to deal with in a few novels before (although everyone I’ve told this assured me it was just me): Willibald Adrian Metzger is just too perfect. He’s not, of course, but Raab does such a good job of making him likeable, I found myself feeling unworthy. This perfect teddy bear of a man is just so good, and he likes just the right things and despises all the bad things that I just can’t help but have in my life (mobile phones, a love of talking and occassional bouts of silliness, and not-so-well-defined political views). After two books, I felt that while I’d love to meet Willibald in real life, he would not choose to hang out with me. And that made me sad. Am I really alone in feeling that way, faced with literary heroes?

Karo’s #CBR4 review #5: Der Metzger holt den Teufel by Thomas Raab

I’m not sure I can call myself a fan of Austrian literature after having read only one Austrian author, but ask me to recommend a German language novel, and I would bully you into reading Wolf Haas. Now, much to my whole family’s delight, Austria has a new literary darling. A writer, pianist and singer, Thomas Raab is a busy person who’s just released his fifth novel featuring Metzger (known as “der Metzger” in that lovely Austrian way of calling even your best friends by their last names, complete with article. It’s one of the many, many things that are near impossible to translate, which means it should be a while until any of you people will be able to actually read those books. Unless you learn German and go live in Austria, of course.) But I digress. Willibald Adrian Metzger, middle-aged and unhurried, is a restorer in Vienna, and as such not exactly predestined for a life as a criminal investigator. His best friend happens to be a policeman, though, and this is how it makes total sense that Willibald gets to deal with the odd murderer.

Der Metzger holt den Teufel starts innocently enough with Metzger falling victim to a pickpocketing youth, but soon things spiral out of control, people get chased, murdered and humiliated, and the novel takes a very sombre turn. It’s the fourth novel in the series, but it doesn’t take long to catch up on the various backstories. What makes this novel (and presumably the other four) special is Raab’s use of language. Where Wolf Haas, the other Austrian, uses his protagonists muddled stream of consciousness to exhilarate the reader, Raab delivers sentences that are filed and polished to absolute perfection. They are clever and funny, use all kinds of stylistic devices, and make you want to cross-stitch them to hang above your bed. As a result, reading a Metzger novel takes a while. You simply cannot rush through, because Raab is especially fond of using clever synonyms for everyday words, turning the simplest descriptions into cryptic clues. Two teenagers romancing on a park bench under a tree inspire a sentence that uses phrases like seating-accomodation and orbital as if it was the only way to describe the scene. It’s never pretentious though, because Metzger is a loveable character. He’s that relic of a less hurried time that makes for a good investigator (think Wallander or Adamsberg), and the language adds to this slowing of pace. At the same time, Raab is a sharp observer of social problems and modern life, as well as an artist. Der Metzger holt den Teufel is more than just another crime novel, and I can’t wait to devour the other four – at a reasonable pace, of course.

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