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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

     

Lisa

by
Thomas Glavinic


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Lisa



Title: Lisa
Author: Thomas Glavinic
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011
Length: 204 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Lisa - Deutschland
  • Lisa has not yet been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B- : decent rant-narrative, but weak payoff

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 11/2/2011 Daniel Haas
NZZ . 5/2/2011 Andreas Breitenstein


  From the Reviews:
  • "Vom Ende des Buchs her gewinnt die Geschichte einen gespenstischen, ins Metaphysische ausgreifenden Sinn, aber man darf die Pointe nicht verraten. Der Text käme auch ohne sie aus; den dramaturgischen Fluchtpunkt einer Erklärung, die diese irre Story begründet, kann es vielleicht auch gar nicht geben. Denn Lisa ist das zwischen Wahn und Hellsicht pendelnde Selbstgespräch des Subjekts im Ausnahmezustand, der zum Status quo geworden ist." - Daniel Haas, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Nichts dagegen, doch liest er sich wie eine breitgetretene Kurzgeschichte, deren Pointe erst dann gelöst wird, wenn der Leser schon längst hinter das Rätsel gekommen ist. (...) Das alles ist im Einzelnen nicht uninteressant, doch im Ganzen konfus." - Andreas Breitenstein, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Lisa finds 'Tom' holed up in an out-of-the-way country house he's rented -- in the week he and his young son have been there, they haven't seen another soul --, taking to the internet-airwaves nightly to tell his story. He's worried, and he's paranoid -- unwilling even to reveal his real name or exact location:

     Nein, meinen richtigen Namen verrate ich euch nicht, ich bin ja nicht ganz blöd, nennt mich Tom. Tom, das ist eine Idee von mir. Ich bin eine Idee von Tom.

     [No, no way am I revealing my real name, I'm not totally nuts, call me Tom. Tom, that's an idea of mine. I am an idea of Tom's.]
       It's a promising-enough premise, this idea of Tom, a disembodied voice speaking into the nothingness of the internet -- live radio, he insists, not this podcast nonsense --, without knowing whether anyone is listening, for a few hours nightly.
       Lisa is one long monologue, told over several days, broken up into sections and interrupted by sleep and daytime. Tom, babbling away, is a mess -- snorting cocaine, downing considerable amounts of alcohol, and very worried about what's going on.
       What's going on started seemingly relatively harmlessly -- though certainly annoyingly: his house was broken into three years ago, and a few things were stolen, including his laptop and all the family documents (birth certificates, etc.). The police find some of at least one of the burglars' DNA -- that of a woman. And it turns out that this woman's DNA turns up at a lot of crime scenes -- many of them far more horrific than this one was. But she remains elusive and unidentifiable. She is referred to merely as 'Lisa'.
       A policeman, Hilgert, whom Tom befriends, takes an interest in the case, and hunts down clues on his own -- but his style isn't very cautious or laid-back, landing him in trouble, and not really helping get any closer to answers. When Tom starts recounting his story, Hilgert too has disappeared, and Tom is worried that he is in even more danger.
       Paranoid and isolated -- and often high as a kite when he talks deep into the night -- Tom tries to play the good family father during the day (son Alex is usually in bed, asleep, when Dad goes on the air), but the hide-out he has chosen is not exactly conducive to calming nerves.
       Tom's rant often degenerates, but a few recurring themes -- including his (new) surroundings and Lisa's trail of heinous crimes -- maintain some sense of order. But Tom is in poor shape and often seems to just be hanging by a thread -- in part, this thread, his limited connection to the real world. Of course, when one-way communication via the internet is more or less all of you have left, things are not looking good. But maybe Tom's paranoia is justified .....
       Lisa is an important off-stage presence in the narrative, haunting Tom and his story at every turn -- but that's a lot to ask of a character. Glavinic offers one decent twist in suggesting an explanation as to what's behind her, and then he adds another, final twist. It's a lot of build-up for that pay-off, and the pay-off disappoints -- not necessarily per se (there's arguably more than enough to it), but in what of it Glavinic is able to serve up, and what he's able to do with it.
       A lot of sound and fury here doesn't go nearly far enough; yes, Tom's rantings aren't bad, as rantings go, and Glavinic scores a few nice points, but after all this water-treading the story as a whole sort of just sinks all too lightly away. Would- and should-be horror isn't presented, in its final manifestation, nearly fearsomely enough.

- M.A.Orthofer, 14 June 2016

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Links:

Lisa: Reviews: Other books by Thomas Glavinic under review: Thomas Glavinic: Other books of interest under review:
  • See the index of German literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Austrian author Thomas Glavinic was born in 1972.

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© 2016 the complete review

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