Enemy of the Ants

Stephan Valentin, Author
Stephan Valentin, trans. from the German by Moira Kerr. Pfefferkorn (www.pfefferkorn-verlag.de), $21.99 (126p) ISBN 978-3-9807298-0-2
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Translated into English for the first time, child psychologist Valentin's debut novel goes inside the head of a troubled young school-age protagonist named Jonas. The lonely boy's penchant for terrorizing insects accelerates when Jonas and his mother relocate to the farm of his grouchy grandmother, who spends her days alone in her bedroom, leaving the boy's mother to date a series of abusive "uncles." Jonas finds his own entertainment—which includes freezing, thawing and refreezing flies, and squashing ants' heads. Angry with just about everything in his narrow universe, the boy reserves his deepest hatred for the "football" growing in his mother's tummy. The impending birth of his sister triggers a rebellious streak in Jonas one evening with his new friend Sarah, which in turn sets off a series of irrevocable actions that won't necessarily ensure a happy ending. With Jonas narrating in the stream-of-consciousness present tense, the story is told with sweeping cinematic imagery and appears simple on the surface but Valentin's raw insight into the turmoil and sinisterness of childhood cuts deep and makes for uncomfortable reading. (Oct.)
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