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Martin Walser: Das Einhorn (The Unicorn)

This is the second novel in the Anselm Kristlein trilogy. Unlike its predecessor, it has been translated into English. Fortunately, the three books stand independently, so you don’t need to have read the first to appreciate this one. As with the previous one, this book is long on description and inner thoughts and less on plot, though plot there is. Kristlein has moved on from his career as a travelling salesman and is now about to become an author. Specifically, Melanie Sugg, affectionately known as Moumoutte, a rich woman, has asked him to write a book on love, which she will publish. Unfortunately, for most of the book he is in bed ill, writing about his experiences. As the book is about love, while he starts off with tales of his wife and children, he falls in love with Orli but the affair does not last and he returns to his family at the end. But the book’s trademark and what makes it so enjoyable is that Walser goes off on so many tangents that, at times, you wonder where he is going. But no matter. Wherever he goes, his ramblings and his descriptions and his inner monologues are so fascinating, as in the previous novel, that you cannot help but enjoy this story as he explores his version of love.

Publishing history

First published 1966 by Suhrkamp
First published in English by Calder & Boyars 1971
Translated by Barrie Ellis-Jones