Thomas Hettche - What We Are Made Of (3 stars)

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Thomas Hettche - What We Are Made Of

CINEMATIC THRILLER

(Picador)

The blurb on the flyleaf of Thomas Hettche’s German Booker prize-shortlisted novel likens his page-turning thriller to the films of David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino. Certainly, Hettche’s prose style is cinematic, not least in his use of ‘jump cuts’ to juxtapose geographical and chronologically separated, but thematically or narratively linked, events. For instance, an early scene in which the book’s protagonist – a German biographer named Niklas Kalf who’s visiting New York to meet his publisher – discovers his wife has been kidnapped is intercut with a speech about the war on terror delivered by President Bush on the eve of the invasion of Iraq.

Kalf’s subsequent road trip south to Texas in search of his wife veers into violent Tarantino-esque territory, and the existential issues raised by his increasing disengagement with discovering what happened to her is Lynchian psychodrama. And beyond those filmic thrills Hettche’s very literary concerns address what it means to be human in the bewildering post-9/11 world.

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