Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Studying Studer (A bit more about Friedrich Glauser's "The Spoke")

I speculated recently that The Spoke, fifth and last of Friedrich Glauser's novels about Sgt. Studer of the Bern cantonal police to be published by Bitter Lemon Press, might be even more humorous than its predecessor, The Chinaman. In fact, that turns out not to be the book's distinguishing attribute. Rather, the novel seems more than the previous books to reflect Glauser's struggles with opium and morphine addiction and his time in an insane asylum.

Glauser had touched upon these subjects before, notably in In Matto's Realm, set in an asylum. With The Spoke, though, I made the guess that I did not because of the subject but because of the tone. Studer has fevered dreams in this novel, and he talks to the dead. In addition, parts of the book are written in a summary, telegraphic style, as in "The dead man: young, tall, very slim, wearing light grey flannel trousers and a dark blue polo shirt, his long arms covered in blond hair sticking out of the short sleeves." Since Studer is the point-of-view character, he seems to be talking to himself in such passages.

I'm no psychologist or addiction specialist and still less a biographical determinist; I could be dead wrong to connect the increased focus on Studer's state of mind to Glauser's own history. Perhaps Glauser was simply trying narrative techniques that he had not used before. Still, they remain more suggestive than they might have been had the author led a different life.

The delightful, sometimes low humor from the other four Studer books is here, as is the tender, almost heartbreaking empathy with downtrodden characters that was especially strong in The Chinaman and In Matto's Realm. The scorn for the predator/villains is especially righteous in this novel, and the denouement is especially merry. Troubled though he may have been, I suspect that Friedrich Glauser must always have been capable of a wry grin.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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