The Old Child

by Jenny Erpenbeck

To begin with I didn't enjoy the repetitive narrative of this odd little novella but 'the girl this, the girl that...' gave the book a rhythm, which carried me through to the end in no time at all.


The girl is terribly clumsy. She cannot even walk properly. While she is attempting to cross the schoolyard, she knocks into children who are playing ball or chatting in little groups - one of the smallest boys grins at her and asks: Are you the new teacher?, belches in her face and scoots off. The girl flees into a side entrance of the school building and has leapt up three wooden steps when she stops short, as if she'd come to a wall: there on the landing a couple is kissing, a tangle of hair and hands and trousers. Suddenly she is unable to see, she looks but sees nothing .... She opens her eyes as wide as she can, but she sees nothing.
Translated by Susan Bernofsky


Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

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