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SOJOURN by Amit Chaudhuri
Memories curl like wind through the streets of Berlin in this deceptively quiet story of dislocation and loss. In an opening eerily reminiscent of Karinthy’s Metropole or Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled, an unnamed narrator arrives in the German capital to begin his posting as Böll professor, a position once held by Kenzaburō Ōe. Holed up in some unexpectedly luxurious digs, he becomes increasingly obsessed with the Japanese Nobel laureate (particularly his toilet habits). After a while he ventures out, and is struck by the weight of history at every turn. It is, he knows, a city that continues to grapple with its past, both distant and more recent.
The lectures pass by with some minor engagement but otherwise little fanfare (his hosts have to pretend he’s a writer of significance). He spends the time between them on increasingly surreal ramblings through the city, often accompanied by an eccentric, exiled poet. There’s a fleeting, ethereal love interest. As his tenure nears its end, he begins to lose himself, to forget, to black out. The edifice of reality begins to crumble around him. What was a reasonably straightforward story becomes decidedly weird. An untethered, untethering, and yet oddly mesmerising experience.
Sojourn by Amit Chaudhuri