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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



The Shadow of the
Body of the Coachman


by
Peter Weiss


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Shadow of the Coachman's Body etc.



Title: The Shadow of the Body of the Coachman
Author: Peter Weiss
Genre: Novel
Written: (1952)
Length: 99 pages
Original in: German
Availability: German Library collection - US
German Library collection - UK
The Shadow of the Coachman's Body - UK
Der Schatten des Körpers des Kutschers - Deutschland
  • German title: Der Schatten des Körpers des Kutschers
  • The German Library edition is the 1969 translation by E.B. Garside, originally titled The Shadow of the Coachman's Body and published in Bodies and Shadows (together with The Conversation of the Three Wayfarers) (New York: Delacorte, 1969)
  • The other edition is the 1972 translation by S.M.Cupitt, in The Conversation of the Three Walkers and The Shadow of the Coachman's Body (London: Calder & Boyars, 1972)
  • The German Library edition also includes Marat/Sade (see our review) and The Investigation (see our review)

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Our Assessment:

B+ : an interesting literary experiment

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       Peter Weiss is best known in the English-speaking world as a playwright, the author of Marat/Sade (see our review). In fact, he also wrote a great deal of prose, culminating in his brilliant epic novel, the still untranslated Die Ästhetik des Widerstands (see our review) -- as well as making a mark as a painter and experimental filmmaker. Hardly any of his work is still found in print in English any more -- any more, one must say, because for a time being even Weiss the prose-author was known and published in both the US and England. His two autobiographical works, Leavetaking and Vanishing Point were published together (in Exile), and his two short novellas, The Conversation of the Three Wayfarers and The Shadow of the Coachman's Body, were actually translated twice -- once for an English edition, once for an American one. Would that he still received such attention nowadays !
       The German Library edition that collects two of his plays and this slim novella offers a fine introduction to the author. The little novel The Shadow of the Body of the Coachman is worthy of rediscovery by a new generation of readers (though its companion novella is sorely missed). The Shadow of the Body of the Coachman is an experimental novel Weiss wrote in 1952 but only managed to get published in 1959. It is presented here in the E.B.Garside translation (originally published in 1969; there is also an English translation by S.M.Cupitt, published 1972).
       It is a detailed account of a simple story, meticulously observed, a fascinating little novella (only 39 pages in length) Carefully crafted, it is clearly an attempt by an author to see what can be done with language. The emphasis is very much on description, and the author is careful in not intruding on the text, trying not to offer interpretations of events. Nevertheless, there is an undercurrent of both anger and humour to it. The style can be wearing, but it is short enough that it does not get overly tiresome.
       As an introduction to some of Weiss' other talents (and as the only one easily accessible) it is highly recommended -- though it should be remembered that it is very different from the versatile Weiss' later prose.

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Links:

Peter Weiss: Other works by Peter Weiss under Review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See also the Index of German literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Peter Weiss (1916-82) was born in Germany. A remarkable artist, he was a talented painter who then turned to writing. Only slow to achieve recognition with his fiction he burst onto the international scene with the stunning success of his play, Marat/Sade. Winner of many West and East German literary prizes, he was also the author of Die Ästhetik des Widerstands, the most important German novel since The Tin Drum.

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