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The Shadow-Boxing Woman

Inka Parei

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To purchase The Shadow-Boxing Woman

Title: The Shadow-Boxing Woman
Author: Inka Parei
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 183 pages
Original in: German
Availability: The Shadow-Boxing Woman - US
The Shadow-Boxing Woman - UK
The Shadow-Boxing Woman - Canada
The Shadow-Boxing Woman - India
Die Schattenboxerin - Deutschland
La boxeuse d'ombres - France
La ragazza che fa a pugni con l'ombra - Italia
La luchadora de sombras - España
  • German title: Die Schattenboxerin
  • Translated by Katy Derbyshire

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Our Assessment:

A- : a novel from the underside of modern Berlin, beautifully written

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Economist A 15/4/2000 .
FAZ A 12/10/1999 .
The Independent . 9/12/2011 Rebecca K. Morrison
Der Tagesspiegel B- 27/11/1999 Nadine Lange
Die Welt A 31/7/1999 Elmar Krekeler
Die Zeit . 11/11/1999 Katharina Döbler

  From the Reviews:
  • "The plot is intriguing; it is even blackly funny; but the compelling force of this novel lies neither in the plot nor in the characters. Indeed, as the two women's names perhaps indicate, they are scarcely characters at all. The chief protagonist is the city itself, its tenements, windy streets, wastelands. These overwhelm the fleeting and unstable citizens." - The Economist

  • "Inka Pareis Roman ist 7uuml;ber weite Strecken grandios, weil es ihm gelingt, seine ausgefallen lakonische Form durch das inhaltliche Geschehen zu rechtfertigen" - Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "The sparse language befits the bleakness, its symbolism, however, nods to the resilience of the Berlin spirit" - Rebecca K. Morrison, The Independent

  • "Die Umsetzung dieser eigentlich interessanten, distanzierten Innnensicht misslingt oft stilistisch: Für die hypergenaue Oberflächen-Beschreibung werden nur Adjektive und Adverbien benutzt. Parei sucht keine Vergleiche oder Bilder, sondern reiht Detail-Beobachtungen aneinander. So wirkt der Wahrnehmungsstrom eintönig und lähmend." - Nadine Lange, Der Tagesspiegel

  • "(D)er Debütroman der 32jährigen lenkt nicht ab von den Mißgerüchen der Berliner Realität, er lenkt darauf. Besser gesagt: Er pflügt mit geöffneten Nüstern mittendurch. (...) Ein denkwürdiger Roman. Ein überraschendes Talent." - Elmar Krekeler, Die Welt

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:

       [Note: This review is based on the original German version of the novel.]

       Inka Parei's novel is set in the dark recesses of a unifying Berlin. The narrator lives in an almost completely abandoned, dilapidated apartment building. The last remaining neighbour, a woman named Dunkel ("dark"), disappears; the narrator, named Hell ("bright" or "light") tries to find out what happened to her.
       Berlin is in flux: the Wall came down and the city is being rebuilt and redefined. Only Hell's world seems static, unchanging. Something horrible happened to her, leading to her almost complete withdrawal from society. She continues to live in almost complete isolation in an abandoned building that even most of the other squatters living there illegally have fled from. She knows practically nothing even about her closest neighbour, Dunkel.
       The narrative shifts back and forth between present and past, revealing more about the defining act that was perpetrated against Hell as it progresses. She took up martial arts, which becomes an anchor in her life (and allowed her to be of help to the owner of the local cafe-restaurant, making for one of the few places where she finds some welcome). With the disappearance of Dunkel more turmoil enters her life, specifically in the form of März, a young man with a backpack full of cash who is looking for his father. An uneasy relationship forms between Hell and him, complicated further by the fact that März is also looking for a friend who is clearly the person who had previously devastatingly attacked Hell.
       This last coincidence is, of course, one coincidence too many, but Parei does a decent job of tying together the threads of the tale and bringing it to a fairly satisfactory resolution. However, the true success of the book is in Parei's convincing and haunting tone. These decayed and forgotten back alleys and people, this lifestyle completely outside of the mainstream, are all brought beautifully and simply to life. There is nothing overwritten here: Parei sketches her scenes and lets them speak for themselves, a powerful and effective device in the hands of one in such command of her writing.
       A small book, The Shadow-Boxing Woman is an almost complete success. Highly recommended.

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The Shadow-Boxing Woman: Reviews: Inka Parei: Other books of interest under review:
  • See the index of German literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       German author Inka Parei was born in 1967. She lives in Berlin.

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© 2000-2012 the complete review

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