KRUSO

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight -

Lutz Seiler, Tess Lewis (Trans­la­tor), Scribe Pub­li­ca­tions (JUNE) Soft­cover $17.95 (480pp), 978-1-947534-11-7

Edgar Bendler is twenty-four years old and lost in his loss. His girl­friend is gone—per­haps miss­ing, per­haps dead. His cat, too. Life be­tween univer­sity terms looms, and with­out the dis­trac­tion of study, Ed is likely to throw him­self out his East Ber­lin apart­ment win­dow.

In­stead, he cob­bles to­gether just enough to es­cape to the Baltic. The is­land of Hid­densee is a strange no-man’s-land, both a Sovi­et­con­trolled va­ca­tion des­ti­na­tion and a gate­way to the West. If there’s any hope of stay­ing longer than one day, Ed’s got to go na­tive and find a job as a sea­sonal worker be­fore he gets caught.

Ed’s time on the is­land mir­rors De­foe’s Robin­son Cru­soe as seen through an early-1990s warped mir­ror. In­ter­est­ingly, Ed isn’t a stand-in for Cru­soe; rather, he’s the loyal Fri­day to Alexan­der “Kruso” Kru­sow­itsch’s inim­itable lead­er­ship in Zum Klaus­ner’s kitchen. Over the course of a sum­mer to­gether, Ed stops ques­tion­ing as he finds his own pri­vate es­cape through a deeper sink into Kruso’s world.

Ed suc­cumbs to the haze of sur­vival, an­chored by the im­per­a­tive that Kruso is his “real friend and a close one. His friend and mas­ter.” Un­der Kruso, Ed and other sea­sonal work­ers move be­tween ho­tel du­ties and suc­cor­ing other refugees from the com­mu­nist state. All of them seek the is­land as both means and end, even as Kruso op­er­ates his own kind of cen­tral plan­ning to fa­cil­i­tate their pres­ence and dis­ap­pear­ance.

Through­out the sea­son, Ed is grad­u­ally stripped of com­pan­ions and pur­pose. Com­mu­nism col­lapses, the ho­tel is aban­doned, and he dis­cov­ers that many of his friends and fel­low refugees were lost to the sea in their at­tempts to make it to Western free­dom.

If com­mu­nism’s fi­nal mo­ments are an is­land of time, Kruso is a bot­tled mes­sage washed up from those dis­tant shores. A strange jour­ney, Seiler’s novel sub­scribes to is­land rules, with his­toric­ity sus­pended above and be­tween fevered dreams of per­fect com­mu­nity and be­guil­ing free­dom.

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