The title character in The Old Man and the Bench has a contract that requires him to write, and he feels he should focus on his past. Yet instead of childhood reminiscences, the old man dwells on a series of mini-narratives about, for example, a love triangle among concrete towers, a chaste visit by two call girls, and the joint-by-joint cannibalization of his fingers. In the middle of these absurd tales, something like childhood memories appear, only to disappear into the stream of the old man’s ramblings. Urs Allemann’s virtuosic, lyrical monologue is at once playful and disturbing, recalling Dada, Kafka, and Beckett in its representation of what language can do when it turns against itself and its speaker.
Urs Allemann is the author of eight books of prose and poetry, as well as the editor of a volume of selected poetry by Robert Walser. A bilingual version of Allemann’s Babyfucker was published in 2009, and English translations of his stories have appeared in Conjunctions and the Lana Turner Journal. He is the 2012 winner of the Heimrad Bäcker Prize, awarded annually for experimental writing in German.
Patrick Greaney is associate professor of German and Comparative Literature at the University of Colorado at Boulder.