Jenny Erpenbeck’s The Book of Words
The Book of Words
by Jenny Erpenbeck
$14.95 List Price
Jenny Erpenbeck is fixated on the terrors of childhood. The title piece of her 1999 debut collection, The Old Child & Other Stories, is the tale of a nameless orphan found on the street and brought to a boarding school, where she lives in paralyzing fear of her classmates. “Around me, everything is awhirl,” she says. “No one looks at me, I don’t know what I have done.” The school’s rigid social hierarchy is more than she can bear: She falls violently ill and, in a twist straight out of a gothic fable, ages decades in a matter of weeks.
The protagonist of Erpenbeck’s novella, The Book of Words, published in the author’s native Germany in 2005 and expertly translated by Susan Bernofsky, is also an unnamed girl for whom the world is a perplexing and unbearable place where everything seems in flux and the facade of
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