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Lost: A Novel Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (September 28, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375406271
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375406270
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 4.7 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,064,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Although Hans-Ulrich Treichel has already published seven volumes of poetry and miscellaneous prose, his first novel has produced the biggest splash yet, both in his native Germany and abroad. Initially this seems a little surprising. Lost is a small book whose expressive resources are constricted on one side by the narrator's youth (he's 8) and on the other by his emotional range (from mild to deep perplexity). Yet Treichel's plot has an elementary and irresistible power. As we learn, the narrator and his parents are beneficiaries of the postwar German boom, now living in East Prussia. There is, however, a missing piece from this family portrait: an older brother, reluctantly abandoned to a bystander during the Russian advance in 1945. The parents are tortured by this fact, while the narrator, forced to study the single remaining photo of his sibling, takes a more laissez-faire approach:
Arnold was dead, which was certainly very sad, but it made it easier for me to deal with his photo. Happy, easygoing Arnold even struck a chord in me, and I was proud to have a brother who was dead and still looked so happy and easygoing. I mourned Arnold and was proud of him, and I shared my room with him and wished him all the milk in the world. I had a dead brother and felt I had been singled out by fate. None of my playmates had a dead brother, let alone one who'd starved to death while fleeing the Russians.
The narrator's pride in this low-impact relation evaporates, however, when his parents discover that Arnold may be alive after all. What follows is an eerie excursion to the Institute of Forensic Anthropology in Heidelberg, where the entire family is poked, prodded, and measured for evidence of consanguinity with "foundling 2307." This nutty procedure is straight out of Kafka, as is the utterly meaningless report that follows on its heels. Yet Treichel's musical, repetitive, unparagraphed prose owes much more to the late Thomas Bernhard, with whom he also shares a taste for black-comic vexation. For this reader, in fact, the comparison leaves Treichel slightly diminished: he lacks the sort of maniacal intensity that was always the true motor of Bernhard's art. Still, there's a great deal to admire in his tormented take on brotherhood--which could easily have been titled From Here to Fraternity--and Carol Brown Janeway's translation captures both the author's meticulous banality and his momentary, moving leaps into the tragic register. --James Marcus

From Publishers Weekly

A missing child casts a long shadow over his younger brother's existence in this slim, astringent first novel by German poet and professor Treichel, enthusiastically received upon its German publication in 1998. Thrust into a stranger's arms in a moment of terror and confusion during the Russian advance on Germany during WWII, baby Arnold disappears without a trace. His petit bourgeois mother and father never quite recover from the loss, though they make a new life for themselves in a small town in Westphalia and have another son. Stifled by his brother's ghostly presence ("my undead brother had the leading role in the family and had assigned me a supporting part"), this unnamed second child, the book's young narrator, is dragged unwillingly into his parents' all-encompassing search for Arnold. The search narrows to focus on "foundling 2307" in a Red Cross facility, who is reported to bear an almost exact resemblance to the narrator. But before foundling 2307 can be viewed in person, a prior relationship must be indicated, and a bureaucratic odyssey of blood tests, fingerprinting, cranial comparisons and official reports ensues. The narrator, caught between his distraught mother and his irritable father, a work-obsessed meat and sausage wholesaler, rebels silently, unmoved even when his father suffers a fatal heart attack upon returning from a final series of tests to discover that his cold-storage shed has been ransacked. The deadpan humor of the boy's observations and the absurdist quality of the proceedings compete evocatively with the novel's real traumas, and the final scene, which abruptly turns the emotional tables, casts new light on all that has gone before. Treichel's finely tuned prose moves at high velocity in a continuous text virtually bare of paragraphs and chapters. It is well served by Janeway's English translation, as the novel ticks from beginning to end like expert, ominous clockwork, measuring out blackly comedic alienation against the bleak backdrop of postwar Germany. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Barr on April 4, 2000
Format: Hardcover
The reader should be careful when reading this translation. The original German title is "Verlorene," which, while it does not retain its definite article ("die Verlorene") is a plural form. A better translation would have been "The Lost" -- and the family and the history and country in this book are indeed all lost. Other passages in the book make the reader of German wonder if this translation would be trustworthy. Readers of English-language literature should always be careful when approaching translations of German books, especially books dealing with horror, loss or grief. German has a great tradition of tragi-comedy -- in the original German, "All Quiet On The Western Front," (Actual title "In The West Nothing New" -- a pithy political title in itself!) loses its flavor of wild bitter humor. American readers have a tendency to trivialize anything "comic," as do American critics. The Germans, who have had to deal with such a long, painful history, have dealt with it by developing a fiercely tragic comic form. It doesn't translate, because German humor -- simultaneously balancing between the edgy, sharp, brilliant, and delicate, and filled with convuluted, ornate and subtle puns -- is so very language-linked, but the English reader should always keep this tradition in mind. In "The Lost," rape is not meant to be funny -- comedy is how a German deals with it. Don't be fooled by your tradition, or the translation. This is a book like a hammer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Theodore A. Rushton on June 19, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes it may be better not to find a person who has been "lost" for many years; after two lives have separated, the reunion may be more painful than a continuing separation.
It's impossible to rebuild the past as if it never happened; starting over is a painful process of giving up much and then learning sometimes disturbing new knowledge. Treichel examines this question with skill and sensitivity; the book may well be a metaphor for his own life, it is certainly an example of regaining the Germany that was "lost" after World War II, and it is an essay on the meaning of loss for anyone and everyone.
The story is simple. When his family fled the advancing Russians in 1945, his brother was "lost" which his mother was busy being raped by Russian soldiers. "Arnold" disappeared in the throng of refugees. For years, his mother grieved her loss; Treichel, like every young boy, was apprehensive about the return of a bigger, stronger older brother. Years were spent in the search.
Meanwhile, like West Germany, the family prospered. In the time before DNA testing, the family went through complicated procedures with painstaking German thoroughness to determine parentage. As most mothers would understand, the search became an obsession for his mother. It was like the national obsession with the reunification of Germany -- in the 1950's, posters in Germany would often show a nation torn apart and summed up with one world, "Niemals." (Never)
German reunification symbolized the end of the Cold War. Germans, East and West, were ecstatic. Since then, reality has slowly settled upon both Germanies. The "Ossies," the former East Germans, resent being patronized by wealthy West Germans.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Theodore A. Rushton on June 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes it is better not to find a someone who has been "lost" for many years; after two lives have separated, the reunion may be more painful than continuing separation.
It's impossible to rebuild the past as if it never happened; starting over is a painful process of giving up much and then learning sometimes disturbing new knowledge. Treichel examines this question with skill and sensitivity; the book may well be an example from his own life, it is certainly an allegory of regaining the Germany that was "lost" after World War II. At its most basic level, it is an essay on the meaning of loss for anyone and everyone.
The story is simple. When his family fled the advancing Russians in 1945, his brother was "lost" while his mother was busy being raped by Russians. To save his life, "Arnold" disappeared into the throng of refugees. For years, his mother grieved her loss; Treichel, like every young boy, was sad but also apprehensive about the return of a bigger, stronger older brother. Years were spent in the search.
Meanwhile, like West Germany, the family prospered. In the time before DNA testing, the family went through complicated procedures with painstaking German thoroughness to determine parentage. As any mother would understand, the search became an obsession for Arnold's mother. It was like the national obsession with German reunification -- in the 1950's, posters in Germany would often show a nation torn apart and summed up with one world, "Niemals" (Never) even when reunification seemed to be the only "never" that would have meaning.
German reunification symbolized the end of the Cold War. Germans, East and West, were ecstatic. Since then, reality slowly settled on both Germanies.
Read more ›
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