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Kleinzeit (Novel, 1974)


Hoban's second novel for adults, Kleinzeit is a story detailing the eponymous title character's brush with illness and creativity. When Kleinzeit is fired from his job as an advertising copywriter, he ends up in hospital with a "skewed hypotenuse", being tended by the healthy and desirable Sister. Together, they embark on a strange adventure, in which Kleinzeit struggles to get better, attempts to master his creative urges, and holds conversations with a variety of abstract concepts. The central character shares many traits with Hoban himself, and the author has commented: "I think there's most of me in Kleinzeit". [from Wikipedia]

Detailed description:

A stylized, completely unpredictable story about a man in search of reality, armed only with a Glockenspiel and a copy of Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War, the story opens as Kleinzeit (whose name means "smalltime") experiences a mysterious flash of pain in his hypotenuse. That morning he finds a clean sheet of yellow paper in the underground, gets sacked from his job as a copywriter and, despite good barometric pressure, is checked into hospital by his doctor. Hospital has been waiting for Kleinzeit; so has Sister, the kindly nurse who is about to become his link to sanity as he is existentially heckled by the voracious, sadistically witty institution known as Hospital, as well as the nonsensical doctors and ailments who put him there, a red-bearded man who drops sheets of blank yellow paper everywhere (which manage to embody all of the terror implicit in the creative process), and his own lack of a past.

Type of work: 
Year of first publication: 
Original publisher: 
Jonathan Cape

Review quotes: 

"Hoban is an extremely talented novelist, an original mind in an era of mass-produced philosophers. Fortunately, Kleinzeit has sufficient plot to propel the reader through its pages. Otherwise the tempation to read and re-read each page individually would be too great to withstand."--Irish Times

"Russell Hoban is as funny and unusual as any writer around, and this second novel confirms it. Its hero, Kleinzeit, is a sort of holy fool, a fierce, lonely intelligence desperately trying to make sense of a hopeless world. A tour de force."--Evening Standard

"Masterly...a mosaic in which each tiny fragment of wit or dirt or profundity has its appointed place."--The Times Literary Supplement

"Confirms the impression of outstanding talent made by his first novel, The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin Boaz...brimming with humanity and humour...brilliant handling of language."
Glasgow Herald

"An original...a delight to read."--Ion Trewin, The Times

To Jake
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