Stoner. Yeah? You read Stoner? Did you like it? Did you tell people? Did they read it? Did they get their book club to do Stoner? Did you read all of John Williams’ other books as they were, in turn, reissued? Did you? Butcher’s Crossing? Augustus? Yeah? Did you talk with your friends about word of mouth successes, as if a word of mouth success showed publishers, gave them what for, demonstrated that their marketing machine didn’t work and that what created success was actually people power? Yeah? Did you? Did you? Did you? Did you also pick up Trilobites by Breece D’J Pancake? If you did, you’ll be interested in finding out more about Reunion, a slim novella written by Fred Uhlman, a German who spent most of his life in the London theatrical world, in 1960.
This is a book that does two things very well: on the one hand, it’s a book about childhood friendships, our narrator, a middle class boy called Hans and a very posh sort called Konradin; on the other hand, it’s a book about the rise of Nazism, the sour cloud of anti-Semitism, the all-consuming fear that gradually took hold of small communities across Germany. The relationship between Hans and Konradin is gentle and literary, and Uhlman navigates the choppy waters of their friendship against the backdrop of family intrigues with great skill.
It’s a good novel, a short novel, quickly and easily read, but it’s a novel that demonstrates Uhlman’s great skill because when you arrive at the last sentence (the very last sentence of the novel), you see you’ve actually missed a different arc entirely. It is this twist in the tail that has you both retreating back through the book but also (curse them) recommending it to others as well.
So maybe just maybe this might actually be another Stoner after all!
Any Cop?: An interesting period piece likely to be enjoyed by readers of Hans Fallada.