Daniel Glattauer [German link] is an Austrian author, most famous for his column in Austrian newspaper “Standard”. Gut gegen Nordwind (translates to “Good Against North Wind”) is an epistolary novel, written entirely in emails. A sequel came out earlier this year.
Emmi mistakenly sends Leo an email about quitting her subscription to a magazine. A few months later, the same mistake happens again. With time, their correspondence grows more frequent and more intimate. Even though Leo just wants to finally put his ex-girlfriend behind him and Emmi is happily married, the desire to meet and make more of their relationship grows stronger for both of them.
Glattauer works the email format perfectly – there are longer ones, drunken emails, short chat-like conversations and everything in between. In the beginning, he also captures the different voices and styles of his characters. Towards the end, though, the differences between them get blurred. Nevertheless it’s worth reading, especially since it’s a very quick read.
Glattauers emails, especially towards the end, are probably the most lyrical emails ever. Yet they never feel unreal, like a writer thought them up. And even when Emmi’s and Leo’s styles start to resemble each other, it never takes away from the enjoyment.
And as I said before, Glattauer really works the format: It’s never letters that just happen to be sent electronically. It’s emails. In all their forms.
The story itself is not new or surprising or exciting. The two of them fall for each other then she wants to meet, but he’s hesitant, then he wants to meet and she’s hesitant and then her husband finds the emails and writes to Leo to finally meet and get on with things, so Emmi can get over him and then they don’t meet and end things. [As I understand it, they get to meet in the sequel though.] But Glattauer manages to portray the development of their relationship sensitively and gradually, so you don’t mind that the story isn’t exciting but you enjoy discovering their relationship alongside them.
It’s a nice and quick read, unfortunately, as far as I know, only available in German though. I’m definitely going to check out the sequel but I’ll wait for the paperback.
Here’s a quote:
Write to me, Emmi. Writing is like kissing but without lips. Writing is kissing with the head.
[Original: Schreiben Sie mir, Emmi. Schreiben ist wie küssen, nur ohne Lippen. Schreiben ist küssen mit dem Kopf.]