AN EVOCATION OF MATTHIAS STIMMBERG by Alain-Paul Mallard
Translated by Sarah Pollack
For all we like to bang on about some great Bernhardian renaissance, there’s one aspect of the Austrian misanthrope’s schtick that seems to be lacking. Sure, we get the gloriously overwrought, overthought run-on sentences. And there’s plenty of obsessive observational naval gazing as well as buckets of sweat poured over trivial minutiae. But seldom do we find Bernhard’s wickedly caustic humour. The sort that made My Prizes his most deliciously enjoyable book. Enter Alain-Paul Mallard.
In just a few short chapters, we become privy to the darkest thoughts of Matthias Stimmberg, a failed writer who detests everyone and everything. It’s a tour-de-force of sustained acidity, full of hilarious musings and utterly ridiculous moments that almost had me choking on my bile. Nothing is sacred, including Paul Celan who visits Stimmberg to deliver a poem about the latter’s pet mouse. Stimmberg hates it and hides it away, savouring the thought of a lost (shit) Celan poem one day being found amongst his belongings. The “minimal portrait” ends in a wonderfully self-referential “historical note” that reframes all that came before it. Oh, and there are incredible sketches accompanying each chapter. It’s all rather grim but outrageously funny.
An Evocation of Matthias Stimmberg by Alain-Paul Mallard (Tr. Sarah Pollack)
Wakefield Press, 2021