Sunday, October 9, 2011

Zoran Drvenkar's "Sorry: A Thriller": Book Review

Harrowing and bewildering, in the best sense, this German thriller kept me up late three nights. It's not for the fainthearted, more for what it suggests than it shows, even if it starts with a crucifixion. The hints of torment linger even longer and deeper than the gruesome effects of the suffering endured as the set-up of the blurb, two brothers and two friends who start an apology service for guilty professionals and business folks, spins into a client who kills and then wishes forgiveness to be conveyed via their new enterprise.

As a character says near the end of this complicated plot, "no one can apologize to a dead person." You learn who "You" are in the story, who "The Man Who Wasn't There" is, who the victims will be, and who the first-person narrator is. Characters also will blend and separate into third-person narrative segments also. All this sounds post-modern, but Zoran Drvenkar manages to keep the suspense alive for three-hundred pages efficiently and effectively.

One character's demise via ice, another's by the gun, are told grippingly in a few well-chosen phrases. Shaun Whiteside's translation reads as if the thriller originated in English, and the style is not showy, but taut and propulsive. It does not draw attention to itself, but for the structural arrangement of this intelligent thriller, it works well. It nears overload as mayhem spreads to swirl what you thought you had figured out into more confusion near the end, but all the clues are there, if a bit hidden earlier, as is fair for such dour entertainment.

Not a lot of philosophizing here, but it's more of a moralistic revenge tale mixed with bits of sly social observation as the four partners confront a Berlin which offers those nearing thirty not much in the way of success in a downsized, capitalized, and atomized, detached world. I liked these glimpses of modern life in a grim city as much as this clever, complex tale itself. (Amazon US 11-7-11)

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