Special Order - Subject to Availability
“Hermann Burger was an artist who went the whole hog every time, didn't conserve himself. He was a man with a big longing for happiness.” --Marcel Reich-Ranicki
Appearing in English for the very first time, Brenner is a delightfully unusual novel full of dark humor tracing the childhood memories of the book's eponymous narrator, a scion of an ancient cigar dynasty.
Perpetually shrouded in a thick cloud of cigar smoke, Herman Arbogast Brenner, scion of an old and famous cigar dynasty, has decided to kill himself––but not until he has written down his forty-six years of life, in a Proustian attempt to conjure the wounds, joys, and sensations of his childhood in the rolling countryside of the Aargau region of Switzerland.
Estranged from his wife and two children, he decides there is no point in squirrelling away his fortune, so he buys himself a Ferrari 328 GTS, and drives around sharing cigars with his few remaining friends.
In this roman à clef, writing and smoking become intertwined through the act of remembering, as Brenner, a fallible, wounded, yet lovable antihero, searches for epiphany, attempting to unearth memories just out of reach— the glimmer of a red toy car, the sound of a particular chord played on the piano, the smell of the cigars themselves.
Brenner is the final work from Hermann Burger, who died by suicide in 1989. The book comes out just days before what would have been the author’s 80th birthday.
About the Author
Hermann Burger (1942–1989) was a Swiss author, critic, and professor. Author of four novels and several volumes of essays, short fiction and poetry, he first achieved fame with his novel Schilten, the story of a mad village schoolteacher who teaches his students to prepare for death. He died by suicide days after the publication of Brenner.
Translator Bio: Adrian Nathan West is the author of The Aesthetics of Degradation as well as the translator of numerous works of contemporary European literature, including Pere Gimferrer’s Fortuny, Josef Winkler’s Graveyard of Bitter Oranges, and Marianne Fritz’s The Weight of Things.
"There is, for the reader, a compelling claustrophobia in being immersed so thoroughly in such a warped subjectivity. It is this, ultimately, that Brenner shares with the best of Thomas Bernhard’s work: not merely the sheer bravura of a three-page sentence, but how such sentences capture the swerving freneticism and unreality of a mind in the act of consuming itself . . . Masterful and devastating . . . "
--Charlie Lee, The Nation
"A Susan Sontag–esque meditation on depression . . . The translator is to be commended."
"Thanks to West’s lucid translation along with a series of evocative photos, the chronicle offers a cogent view of a rambling man desperate to shape his life into meaning."
"In a mocking celebration of Marcel Proust and his madeleine cookie-triggered involuntary memory, Brenner chooses which cigar to smoke in the hope of conjuring a particular event . . . The memories conjured unfold similarly to how the cigar being smoked develops its “pneuma,” an Ancient Greek word for breath . . . The translation is excellent . . . Complicated but rewarding (just like a fine cigar)."
--Erika Harlitz Kern, Foreword Reviews
"A first-class book . . . thoroughly enjoyable . . . witty, cynical, mocking but about a man who by all normal accounts could be considered an abject failure, who is dying and knows he is dying, yet still manages to carry on cheerfully with the one thing that matters to him in life – a good smoke."
--The Modern Novel
"Narrated by a man on the brink of death, Brenner is a baroque – in places manic – extemporization, a profusion of extraordinary involutions and convolutions, of abrupt temporal and tonal shifts. A novel of multiple registers, it’s in part a recuperation of the intense pleasures and torments of childhood, in part a settling of scores. This is an astounding translation of an astounding book."
--Jonathan Buckley, author of The Great Concert of the Night
"A discursive, Proustian meditation mostly concerned with the manufacture and smoking of cigars. Burger’s ludicrous self-regard gives even his grimmest work . . . a comic edge. It would be a disservice to call a self-described “mortologist” life-affirming, but . . . there’s something exhilarating about seeing despair turned into moving, desperate art."
--Andrew Martin, Bookforum
"[Burger was] a literary and cultural critic with virtually all of Western literature at his fingertips, enabling his characteristic, wide-ranging, ubiquitous intertextuality . . . His process is reminiscent of Homer’s famous catalogues, which bring action to a standstill only to make it come yet more alive and immediate through enumeration that fixes the setting with vivid immediacy."
--Vincent Kling, Hopscotch