Jakov Lind's Soul of Wood brought its author immediate fame when it was published in 1962, earning him a reputation as one of the most boldly imaginative post war writers. In the title novella and six stories here, Lind deals masterfully with a world of horror through fantasy, paradox, and sardonic distortion and brings to life the agonies of 20th century Europe. In "Soul of Wood," Anton Barth, a paralyzed young Jew, is smuggled to safety as his parents are shipped off to their deaths. Then, however, we discover that Barth's purported protector, the wooden-legged war invalid Wohlbrecht who is the deeply unreliable, self-pitying, half-mad narrator of the story, has simply abandoned the helpless boy in a forest cabin. Wohlbrecht returns to Vienna, where he is soon busy assisting a psychiatrist in administering lethal injections to his patient. But as the Germany collapses before the Russian offensive, Wohlbrecht rushes back to the woods in the frenzied hope that he will somehow be able to reclaim "his" Jew, and so preserve himself from retribution.
Horrifying and humorous by turns, Lind's stories alternate scenes of pure savagery and madcap hilarity, displaying a grim inventiveness unmatched ion modern literature.
Jakov Lind (1927-2007) was born in Vienna. He fled Austria when he was eleven, finding temporary refuge in Holland, and then surviving inside Nazi Germany by assuming a Dutch identity. After a literary apprenticeship in Israel, he moved to London, where he wrote, in German, the short stories and novels on which his stature as a major European writer is based: Soul of Wood, Landscape in Concrete, and Ergo. Ralph Manheim (1907-1992) translated Gunter Grass, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Hermann Hesse, and Martin Heidegger, along with many other German and French authors. His translations of NYRB Classics include Short Letter, Long Farewell; Slow Homecoming; and A Sorrow Beyond Dreams. Michael Kruger's successful career as a poet and novelist has been paralleled by his long and distinguished record as head of the German publishing house Hanser Verlag and editor of the influential journal Akzente. He received the Morike Prize, one of Germany's most prestigious awards, in recognition of his contribution to both sides of the trade.