As part of my attempt to read more books in translation I have just finished the breathtaking work, The Wall by Marlen Haushofer. I was shocked to realize that it is a classic of European Feminist literature but in a way that is a good thing as I came to it with no expectations about genre or canon position.
An unnamed woman is trapped in the mountains after an invisible wall drops down freezing those on the other side to statues. She has only a dog with her at first for company but soon chances on other animals. Her life from that point on is about survival. She sets about the practical tasks of daily existence and shows herself to be resourcefully, strong and hardy. It was certainly interesting to read about how she managed to provide for herself but the more interesting story was her emotional survival.
She learns to view her past through a lense of distance like the binoculars she uses to check on the world on the other side of the wall. Her relationship with her companion animals is tender, caring and hard won. She deals with adversity pragmatically and even during illness and depression we see her tough core keep her going. The book has some similarity to the Robinson Crusoe story but contains much more compassion and yet a clear eyed look at what is wrong with our world. Like Crusoe she is alone but does not subjugate others to her will, she cares for her companions even when she is terribly ill herself.
Her voice was what drew me on, I really wanted to read her story and her lack of self pity and strength of will made for an amazing story. She found many solutions, was able to be easy on herself when she was unable to do something and yet forced herself to endure extreme hardship out of duty to her animals.
The narrative has a distinct lack of sentimentality and an unflinching look at what humanity is really about. An existential tale if ever I have read one.