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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Executor

Michael Krüger

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

To purchase The Executor

Title: The Executor
Author: Michael Krüger
Genre: Novel
Written: 2005 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 180 pages
Original in: German
Availability: The Executor - US
The Executor - UK
The Executor - Canada
Die Turiner Komödie - Deutschland
  • A Comedy of Letters
  • German title: Die Turiner Komödie: Bericht eines Nachlaßverwalters
  • Translated by John Hargraves

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Our Assessment:

B+ : fairly well-done writerly/publishing tragi-comedy

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The LA Times . 6/2/2008 Tim Rutten
NZZ B 27/7/2006 Wolfgang Schneider
The NY Rev. of Books . 3/4/2008 John Banville
The NY Times Book Rev. . 23/3/2008 Alison McCulloch
TLS . 7/4/2006 Ben Hutchinson
Die Welt B 24/9/2005 Elmar Krekeler
Die Zeit . 8/12/2005 Georg Diez

  From the Reviews:
  • "(A) fine and thought-provoking entertainment for anyone who ever has taken their reading seriously or idolized an author -- however privately. This is a book that not only lives up to its subtitle but also reminds us that between the dramatic poles of slapstick and black comedy is a broad, gray area where the absurd holds unsettling sway." - Tim Rutten, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Das Ganze ist doppelbödig und dekonstruktiv, ironisch abgefedert und mit Anspielungen gespickt -- der Chef kocht selbst, und er weiss am besten, wo die Zutaten stehen. Wer, wenn nicht Michael Krüger, kennt den Literaturbetrieb und die Pathologie des Schreibens ? Gerade deshalb enttäuscht es, dass viele der Kulturbetriebspointen ziemlich absehbar sind (.....) Kein Zweifel -- dieser Roman ist besser als das Gros aktueller Neuerscheinungen. (...) Aber das Zentrum ist tot, und das meint mehr, als dass die Hauptfigur bei Buchbeginn schon verstorben ist." - Wolfgang Schneider, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "There are matters here deeper than the complicated love relationships and unhappy fates of a couple of littérateurs and their women. (...) The Executor is soaked in a sense of shame and shaming futility." - John Banville, The New York Review of Books

  • "The mystery of the masterwork is provocative, but Rudolf is no Céline -- there’s not enough genius to make his misanthropy (and misogyny, for that matter) worth caring about." - Alison McCulloch, The New York Times Book Review

  • "Krüger's novel has much to recommend it. Its lightness of tone (in striking contrast to Bernhard, for instance) contrasts convincingly with the depiction of Rudolf as a typically Germanic melancholic, yet allows room, through the posthumous descriptions of the dead writer, for a comically bitter critique of what he sees as the garrulous banality of much contemporary German literature. (…) The story may not go anywhere in particular, but then its pleasures are in any case more stylistic than plot-driven" - Ben Hutchinson, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Ein Stück Altachtundsechzigernachrufliteratur. Ein Stück Literaturliteratur. Ein kleiner Wirbelsturm der literarischen Anspielungen, der ganz hübsch und wie ebenfalls nicht anders zu erwarten sehr gekonnt, aber leider ein bißchen hohl um sich und seinen Gegenstand herumkreist." - Elmar Krekeler, Die Welt

  • "Krüger lässt seine Figuren zärtlich in dem Sumpf aus Text und Subtext versinken, seine Sätze haben einen leichten, angenehm bitteren Nachgeschmack, und die Pointe dieses etwas angejahrten akademischen Kabinettstücks ist von ironischer Bosheit: Dem Leben entkommen wir; der Literatur nicht." - Georg Diez, Die Zeit

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:

       The executor of the (English) title is the narrator of this novel, a good friend of a successful German novelist who long lived and taught in Turin (that city of suicides ...) and is now dead. Rudolf has left behind not only his papers, which is what the narrator is meant to deal with, but also a rooftop-menagerie (a veritable miniature zoo) and, it turns out, three women: his wife, Elsa, who is in hospital, Rudolf's colleague, Marta, and a girl from their past, Eva.
       The novel begins with Rudolf's funeral, the narrator caught up in his own thoughts and feeling and staying apart from the rest of the mourners. He has lost his only friend, he believes he's the only foreigner present -- and he goes his own way after the service as well. This sense of not being part of the bigger picture and of everything else going on around him remains throughout the book -- and his go-it-alone attitude doesn't serve him particularly well.
       The university where Rudolf taught seems to have an eye on his papers, as do the Germans, and the executor has to try to keep them at bay while he tries to sort things out. In particular, he decides he has to go through them to make sure there's nothing that could taint dear Rudolf's memory, an interference that, of course, winds up not working out as he had hoped.
       Rudolf has done well -- money- and reputation-wise -- with his four short novels -- and there's now the question of his last, great work. For years now he had apparently been working on it, a book that:

must produce an ultimate salvation for humankind -- something that was lacking in the intellectual output of the times. He spoke of fuel for the soul, inner self-illumination, using these pyromaniacal images to describe the explosion of literary fireworks that would be his last gift to the reading, thinking world.
       The women -- Marta in particular -- and then the authorities do not make the executor's task a straightforward undertaking, but perhaps a bigger problem is the executor's own image of Rudolf, which the dead man can't quite live up to. The executor tells of Rudolf's many, many foibles and he thinks he really knows him, but he soon discovers he doesn't know the half of it.
       Marta describes Rudolf as: "the textbook definition of a trapped person, who, with the passage of time, has finally stopped trying to escape." In particular he was trapped and obsessed by writing: he couldn't give it up, but:
His writing, that strange mix of anguish and accuracy, had to destroy him. It was only a question of time -- anyone who knew him knew that. Every word he wrote was a nail in his coffin. Those who had to watch him at his carpentry day and night, as I did, were at least prepared.
       Rudolf's carpentry, and the nature of his last book, also prove not to be quite as straightforward as the executor expected. It's a fairly clever idea that Krüger twists quite nicely into the story: the Turin tragedy does turn into a bizarre Turin comedy (so also the German title of the book), and, as so often in history, a literary executor messes with the literary legacy of the author whose works he was meant to protect with unintended consequences.
       Rudolf certainly is an exaggerated, larger-than-life figure, but the executors love and veneration of his old friend makes for an appealing presentation of a near-cartoonish self-centred literary figure -- all the more enjoyable when the cracks appear in the image he has built up of his friend, as he is confronted with some facts he was unaware of (and with Rudolf's women). Krüger also nicely captures how far in over his head the executor is when it comes to the women in Rudolf's life.
       An enjoyable literary tragi-comedy, with a nice literary-theoretical spin on the nature of fiction, the literary industry, literary reputation, and posthumous obligations tucked in, The Executor is a fine little read.

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The Executor: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of German literature

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About the Author:

       German author and publisher Michael Krüger was born in 1943.

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