Who Was David Weiser? / Pawel Huelle; Translated by Michael Kandel

Pawel Huelle, Author, Pawe Huelle, Author
Pawel Huelle, Author, Pawe Huelle, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P $17.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-15-196294-5
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-15-600127-4
Hardcover - 215 pages - 978-0-7475-0882-3
Hardcover - 176 pages - 978-0-7475-2346-8
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This strange, almost hypnotic but ultimately unsatisfying novel by a Polish literature professor examines the summer of 1957 in Gdansk. Looking back from the present day, the narrator, Heller, describes how he and his friends, then 11-year-olds, grew involved with a mysterious classmate, the eponymous Weiser. A Jew, Weiser seems possessed of magical powers, and the boys fall under his sway, eventually becoming unwitting accomplices to his inexplicable disappearance. In a ruminative narrative--filled with repetitions which become almost musical in structure, asides, false starts, flash forwards and flashbacks--Huelle offers a hard-nosed, Polish version of magical realism. A small boy, for example, entrances a panther in the local zoo, levitates himself and sets off surreal explosions. Rumbling in the background are the political upheavals of 1970 and 1980, events that will kill a central character. The novel is on its surest footing in its merciless delineation of a sadistic teacher, and in a spirited series of digressions involving an escaped lunatic. But the denouement, regrettably, leaves many questions unanswered, including the one posed by the title. (Jan.)
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