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Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig
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Maybe This Time (original 2006; edition 2011)

by Alois Hotschnig (Author)

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605294,535 (3.5)6
Member:niallh
Title:Maybe This Time
Authors:Alois Hotschnig (Author)
Info:Peirene Press Ltd (2011), 110 pages
Collections:House
Rating:
Tags:house, joint

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Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig (2006)

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    An A-Z of Possible Worlds (Boxed Set) by A. C. Tillyer (bluepiano)
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    A Life on Paper: Stories by Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud (bluepiano)
    bluepiano: Chateauraynaud's and Hotschnig's books are first cousins. I'd say they were kissing cousins except that I don't know what that means. It's rather difficult to imagine someone very much liking one yet not very much liking the other. Both are well worth your time.… (more)
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If the story reminds one of Kafka, it is “Kafkaesque”. If one is an ardent fan of Doctor Who, than one is a “Whovian”. If one of the short stories in this collection, “Maybe this Time, Maybe Now”, reminds one of Waiting for Godot, is it Godotian? In pathology, when faced with an entity that resembles a particular entity but which we don’t think actually is that entity, we add the suffix “-oid”. Hence, a cell which superficially resembles an epithelial cell but which we realize could actually be a macrophage or a stromal cell, will be described as “epithelioid”. So perhaps I could consider this story ‘Godotioid’. It doesn’t matter. Walter is Godot. And his whole family keeps waiting for him to show up. Waiting for Walter.

“Then a Door Opens and Swings Shut” is just sideways strange and you start to wonder if it is a bit creepy maybe? A man, Karl, is heading to a friend’s house, when he is waved over to the neighboring house. The old lady beckons him in. So he goes in. She proudly shows him her vast collection of dolls, her children as she calls them. Including one she has named Karl, who looks just like our narrator. Okay, yes, this is approaching the far side of odd now. The surreal state is the inevitable next stage, and if you are expecting that then you won’t be disappointed.

There were one or two I just did not get at all despite re-reading. A couple of the stories sounded like the human side of neurological or psychiatric disease, and so through that lens did not seem as weird. Rather like what it might be like as told from the perspective of a patient of Oliver Sacks.
These are very short stories in a very short book, another excellent one from the Peirene Press. ( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
You are walking down a road, you take a turn, let’s say for examples sake, left, and carry on walking, gradually something, some feeling, starts to disturb your equilibrium, you let it go, and continue walking but this feeling starts to grip, it’s as if something saurian is using your spine as a percussion instrument, there’s an eight millimetre drill bit slowly boring into the back of your skull turn by turn. You spin round tracing your route back with your eyes glancing off every surface, tracing every obstacle – it all looks the same, in the distance the traffic appears to flow as before, the sun is still shining, you about turn and face your intended route, willing whatever’s making you feel this way to show itself. Nothing does, to all intents and purpose this is just a route to your destination, it has the same cars, the same road furniture, the houses line up as regular as soldiers on parade, the same as elsewhere, the same curtain twitches as the same old lady turns from the window - and yet……..
.

Somehow you’ve entered the universe of Alois Hotschnig, this is the rabbit hole and Alice is so far outside her comfort zone - it hurts. These nine tales have an interior logic of their own, like dreamscapes they inhabit that hinterland just outside our line of sight, just beyond our awakened selves and can easily trip over into a nightmare realm. Hotschnig comes over as a bored and decadent God playing a malevolent game of Sims*. .

In the first tale the narrator appears obsessed with his neighbours, following their every movement, he is disturbed by their complete disregard of him, yet feels himself under surveillance. In another an old woman invites a man into her house and although he doesn’t know her, she appeared to be expecting him, then introduces him to a doll with the same name and looking exactly like him, in another tale we follow a beetle and through the cold observations of the narrator we watch it die as it’s attacked & eaten alive by ants. Meike Ziervogel states “Outwardly normal events slip into drama before they tip into horror” and this rings true, these tales confound, bemuse…unsettle and like some poltergeist that has taken up residence in your mind, they bang and clatter, long after the book is back on the shelf.

http://parrishlantern.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/maybe-this-time-alois-hotschnig.htm... ( )
  parrishlantern | Jun 26, 2012 |
Maybe This Time is a translated collection of short stories by Alois Hotschinig, who is considered to be one of Austria’s most talented writers. The collection includes nine stories, some as short as two pages long, which are surreal and dreamlike and often baffling. In The Same Silence, the Same Noise a man obsessively watches his neighbors as they sit, day in and day out, on a pier overlooking the water. What begins as an obsession, begins to become paranoia with a touch of narcissism.

My attitude clearly had to change. But I didn’t know how to get away from these two. I simply didn’t exist for them, and that is how they hooked me. They refused contact, yet they willingly exposed themselves to me. I had caught the scent of their lives, which obviously had reached some sort of premature end. I had fed on them, devoured them, and now I wanted more. I couldn’t resist absorbing their most fleeting emotions as my own, and so I carried them inside me and I lived out their disquiet, which was also my disquiet. – from The Same Silence, the Same Noise -

Perhaps the oddest story in the collection is Then A Door Opens and Swings Shut. In this dreamlike narrative, a man is invited into an old lady’s home where he discovers a doll which looks like him – actually, there are several dolls which resemble him at various times in his life. The man continues to return to the woman’s house, drawn there by the visions he is able to see from his past. The story becomes less of a dream, and more like a nightmare when the woman begins to consume the doll – essentially consuming the man. This is clearly a symbolic tale of losing oneself to another.

I had surrendered myself to her and continued to abandon myself to her and to the images she showed me of myself. And so I returned to her every day, and before long it was as if I lived with her. – from Then A Door Opens and Swings Shut -

The publisher compares Hotschinig’s writing to Kafka whose themes of alienation and persecution seem to fit many of the stories in Hotschinig’s collection. With the exception of two stories, none of the characters have names and are referred to as “the man” or “the woman” which creates a feeling of disconnection. Names are so important to our uniqueness as human beings, and in Hotschinig’s world characters have lost that essential part of their identity. Despite this feeling of alienation, the characters are drawn to others, seeking something in other people which they do not have within themselves. In the title story Maybe This Time, Maybe Now, a family comes together for special occasions and waits for an uncle who never arrives. Despite the frustration of always waiting but never having any resolution, they continue to play out the same scene time after time.

It happens time after time. And time after time while I am with my family at my parents’ house, sitting in the garden or at the dinner table, my mind wanders to my front door where someone might perhaps be waiting. Then I look at each member of my family in turn and think how impossible it is to escape these family ties. No one has managed it except Walter, and for him there was a price which we all must pay. – from Maybe This Time, Maybe Now -

I found this collection to be decidedly odd and often confusing. The stories feel as though we are wading through very thick mud which sucks us in, yet makes us want to escape. Often I felt as though I were in a dream where things start out making sense, but soon devolve into confusion. I think it might have been helpful to read this book as part of a literature class or book group where symbolism and underlying meaning could have been teased out. To be truthful, I am not even sure how to rate this slim book. It was not something I enjoyed, and yet it is strangely compelling. So, I am doing something here I have never done before – I am leaving this book as “unrated.”

Readers who enjoy literary short fiction, and authors like Kafka, may want to pick up a copy of this collection.
2 vote writestuff | Sep 13, 2011 |
I found this a very unsettling collection of short stories. I mean that in a good way. Being unsettled is often the prelude to thinking about things in a new way, and to me that’s one of the most important functions of literature.

The stories are very varied in style and content, but many of them deal with the question of identity in one way or another. In the first story, The Same Silence, The Same Noise, a man becomes addicted to spying on his neighbours. Yet he does not really seem interested in the neighbours themselves, but in seeing himself through their eyes. He is obsessed with why they don’t acknowledge him, and although it is he who is spying on them, he is the one who feels invaded by them, who tries to escape. His identity merges into theirs, and he realises that “in truth, it was myself I was now looking at.”

The final story, You Don’t Know Them, They’re Strangers, also deals with the merging of identities. A man comes home one night to a flat that has someone else’s name on the door but that seems familiar still, and his neighbours and friends call him by that name, even though it’s not his name and he doesn’t know the people who call him a friend. He goes to work in a part of town he’s never been to, again is recognised by his colleagues even though he doesn’t know them, and does a normal day’s work before returning home to find a different name on the door. The same neighbours who had known him the night before now introduce themselves as if for the first time.

See what I mean by unsettling? There’s a dreamlike quality to a lot of the stories, a weird kind of internal consistency that often doesn’t conform to real-world logic but nevertheless feels natural within the slightly warped reality of each story. And through many of the stories runs this same thread of loss of identity. In another one, The Beginning of Something, a man washes his face and raises his arms to wipe it with a towel, but then realises “The arms weren’t my arms.” In perhaps the most unsettling one of all, Then a Door Opens and Swings Shut, a man is invited into an old woman’s house, and although he doesn’t know her, she treats him as a long-overdue guest. She has an enormous collection of dolls, which she calls “her children”, and eventually she brings out one that looks exactly like the narrator and shares his name, Karl. She asks him, “Isn’t that why you’re here?” As he visits more regularly, he comes to identify more and more with the doll Karl, until:

" Whether I liked it or not, I too had become one of the old woman’s dolls, or perhaps I had always been one. She sat me on her lap, and I let it happen, because in exchange she gave me something I wanted and each time craved more deeply – myself."

Apart from Karl, very few of the characters in the book are named. Many stories have a first-person narrator, and otherwise characters are referred to simply as “the woman”, “the man”, “the couple”, etc. It all has a profoundly alienating effect, especially when coupled with the weird meldings of identity. I’d thoroughly recommend this book to anyone who’s looking for something a little weird and disturbing and different. I’m planning to read more by the same writer, but can’t find much in English translation so maybe will have to dust off my schoolboy German :-) ( )
1 vote AndrewBlackman | Sep 7, 2011 |
This little book is a triumph. I have to confess to not being a lover of short stories, but this is in a different league altogether.
Written by one of Austria’s leading authors, Alois Hotschnig, it is veritable potpourri of unique observations of everyday life in frequently unsettling detail. Each story packs an emotional punch and, in many cases, presents a conundrum for the reader to decipher. In “The Same Silence, The Same Noise” a neighbour ponders the motive of the couple next door’s continual presence on their jetty. Day after day they sit on their deckchairs by the lake side, regardless of the weather. Aside from raking the reeds, they do and say nothing at all. Why does a woman, living close to man’s friend’s house, entice him in to see her doll collection? Moreover, why does she caress a doll that resembles the man himself? That is the question posed in “Then a Door Opens and Swings Shut”. For me, the most accomplished story is “Morning, Noon and Night” which portrays a seemingly very ordinary day in any town, anywhere in the world. Yet,periodically, the author injects a line which is unsettling and out of keeping with the plot line. What has happened in that bustling street? What is the cause of the newly built wall and railings, not to mention the skid marks on the road? What has taken the character to the GP and why?
Oh, and this little book is addictive. You will find yourself reading and rereading each story…….just in case you missed something the first time round! All nine stories are completely different and I defy anyone not to be hooked from the first page.
Another triumph for Peirene Press who have an uncanny knack of selecting the cream of European literature’s crop. This acclaimed Austrian author’s work has been lovingly translated and this mesmerising collection of stories demands to be read and enjoyed.
This book was sent to me by the publisher for an honest review. ( )
  teresa1953 | Aug 30, 2011 |
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A spellbinding short story collection by one of Austria’s most critically acclaimed authors. 

A man becomes obsessed with observing his neighbours. A large family gathers for Christmas only to wait for the one member who never turns up. An old woman lures a man into her house where he finds dolls resembling himself as a boy. Mesmerizing and haunting stories about loss of identity in the modern world.
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