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The Mirror Box – English Review

New Books in German has selec­ted Der Spiegelkasten/The Mirror Box for its Autumn 2011 is­sue. See he­re for the full on­line fea­ture or he­re for a PDF ver­si­on. Also, a sam­ple trans­la­ti­on from the book is avail­ab­le as a PDF do­cu­ment.
»In this grip­ping and well-told no­vel, Poschenrieder ta­kes a fresh ap­proach to the Great War which will have wi­de ap­peal. Concise and mo­ving, The Mirror Box mo­ves seam­less­ly bet­ween the hor­rors of trench war­fa­re and mo­dern-day Munich, as the young nar­ra­tor be­co­mes in­crea­singly im­mer­sed in pho­tos, let­ters and re­ports about the war left be­hind by his gre­at-un­cle, Ismar Manneberg, a German-Jewish of­fi­cer.
The gre­at-ne­phew is a li­ke­ab­le but odd cha­rac­ter. He is em­ploy­ed by a mys­te­rious or­ga­ni­sa­ti­on – a shield for the CIA, he be­lie­ves – to wri­te English-lan­guage dos­siers on me­dia co­verage ‘of in­te­rest to the US go­vernment’. He is awa­re of the lu­di­crous na­tu­re of his ro­le: the in­for­ma­ti­on he is em­ploy­ed to re­port on is al­re­ady pro­vi­ded by the news­pa­pers. Then his em­ploy­er de­ci­des to go di­gi­tal, and his days of glee­ful­ly po­ring over the news­pa­pers with inkstai­ned fin­gers are a thing of the past. Increasingly de­jec­ted, he pon­ders the ne­ga­ti­ve ef­fects of di­gi­tal tech­no­lo­gy and re­mem­bers the box of old pa­pers and pho­tos from his gre­at-un­cle. Looking through them, he finds a mys­te­rious pho­to­graph of the ‘mir­ror box’.
He dis­co­vers on­line fo­rums for si­mi­lar Great War en­thu­si­asts and ends up en­t­e­ring in­to a dia­lo­gue with WarGirl18, who seems to know a few things about the mys­te­rious mir­ror box and the doc­tor who crea­ted it, Karamchand. At first, the nar­ra­tor is un­su­re whe­ther to trust her but he opens up and agrees to meet her af­ter she tells him she has so­me let­ters sent by his gre­at-un­cle.
Interspersed with his at­tempts to find out mo­re about the mir­ror box are the pas­sa­ges about Ismar in the tren­ches. He pre­ten­ds to have a fi­an­cée, and wri­tes a let­ter to this ima­gi­na­ry wo­man. A re­ply co­mes back. Shocked but touched, he en­ters in­to a cor­re­spon­dence with the mys­te­rious re­ci­pi­ent. Around the sa­me time he be­gins to vi­sit Karamchand, who nur­sed him back to health af­ter being woun­ded in the field, and be­co­mes in­crea­singly in­trigued by the ‘mir­ror box’ tre­at­ment the doc­tor is working on. All this en­ab­les him to keep a grip on his sen­ses amidst the cha­os of trench war­fa­re.
As this ori­gi­nal and tou­ching no­vel pro­gres­ses, the ta­les of the pre­sent-day nar­ra­tor and Ismar run in­crea­singly par­al­lel un­til they re­ach an in­tri­guing, even chil­ling, con­clu­si­on.«

More on New Books in German in an article I published earlier on this blog.