Martin Walser was born in 1927 in Wasserburg and now lives in Überlingen by Lake Constance. He is among Germany’s most important literary authors and has received numerous awards for his work, among them the Georg Büchner Award and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. He has also been decorated with the order Pour le Mérite and was appointed Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. In 2015 he was awarded with the Nietzsche Prize for his life’s work.
EVERYTHING, OR: LETTERS TO AN UNKNOWN LOVER
“What in the world would I rather be than myself? Everything but me,” claims Justus Mall. That is his name now. Formerly a high-ranking immigration official, he became a philosopher with responsibility for everything and nothing. Only because of one thoughtless act. But that’s not his only dilemma. Day in, day out, he finds himself in conflict with circumstances of his own creation. Is it perhaps easier not to have a relationship at all rather than have only one? Justus Mall is in love with two women. And because that’s not realistic, he starts to blog about it, searching for the one person that embodies exactly what he needs.
It’s a stupendous paradox: A man who believes that reality is a construct, a yarn woven of illusory fibres, pins his hopes to a weblog to find a sense of closeness. His monologues are addressed to an unknown lover, always conscious that she doesn’t exist. In earlier works, Martin Walser used letters and emails as a stylistic element. All that falls away in Everything, a story in which a man shouts out into the void, and is forced to rely on himself, with no one to listen to his feelings and perceptions. This is a novel written with unerring clarity about a situation in which nothing is clear, a work whose existential questions develop a terrifying, overpowering urgency.