Soul of Wood
by Jakov Lind, introduction by Michael Kruger, translated from the German by Ralph Manheim
Soul of Wood made Jakov Lind’s reputation as one of the most boldy imaginative postwar German writers and it remains his most celebrated achievement. In the title novella and six subsequent stories, Lind distorts and refashions reality to make the deepest horrors of the twentieth century his own.
Set during World War II, “Soul of Wood” is the story of Wohlbrecht, a peg-legged veteran of World War I, who smuggles Anton Barth, a paralyzed Jewish boy, to a mountain hideout after the boy’s parents have been sent to their deaths. Abandoning the helpless boy to the elements, Wohlbrecht returns to Vienna, where, having been committed to an insane asylum, he helps the chief psychiatrist to administer lethal injections to other patients. But Germany is collapsing and the war will soon be over. The one way, Wohlbrecht realizes, that he can evade retribution is by returning to the woods to redeem “his” hidden Jew. Others, however, have had the same bright idea.
Hilarious, tragic and beautiful...what symbolism, what nightmare visions and surrealistic drama—what art!...At times, Lind seems a Viennese blend of Charles Addams and Roald Dahl.
— The New York Times Book Review
An important and brilliant piece of work.
— Alan Sillitoe
This remarkable collection of short stories (the title story is actually a novella) concerns the madness of 20th-century European civilization.
— The New York Times
Jakov Lind is the greatest living writer of Jewish Europe...Lind doesn't deserve to be read—he's necessary, both in the vicissitudes of his life and, too, in the work it created. His books are the last late bloom of the European Jewish landscape, straining sunward through the concealing concrete.
— Forward Magazine
Without a doubt the most shattering work of fiction I have read in years.... a reader is shaken both by laughter and horror. This is an amazing writer.
— San Francisco Chronicle