“I’m not here to study anything. I’m here to sleep, to get well, and to find a bench in Markplatz where I can sit and think calmly and eat a pretzel.” Feigning student status, the narrator of Carla Maliandi’s novel arrives from Argentina to Heidelberg, her German childhood home, without a plan. Her backstory unfolds slowly over the course of the novel, yet The German Room is more dominantly about what happens next. The reader is never quite sure where the story will go, as, like the quote demonstrates, there is not much of a plot to begin with, but it is here exactly where Maliandi excels: keeping readers at their toes as a series of events and characters enter, exit, and re-enter the narrator’s living-in-the-moment-sort-of existence in Heidelberg – with unexpected ferocity. Seemingly light in themes and effortless in prose, Maliandi, whose background as a successful playwright in Argentina is visible here, is brilliant at conveying interesting characters, most notably in the figure of a Japanese mother, who comes to haunt the narrator time and again. The way the narrator runs into old acquaintances borders on implausible, but it is likely an intended narrative strategy, and, ultimately, a feature that makes The German Room a distinctive work, an episodic yet absorbing read from an author never before translated into English. Charco Press continues to deliver, and Frances Riddle’s translation is as smooth as you can get – what else is there to say?
The German Room, 137 pp, is published by Charco Press in November 2018.