I have read two contrasting books: one was by Jenny Erpenbeck, The Old Child and The Book of Words (two novellas in one book) and the other J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians.
I started Coetzee's book last night and read until my eyes closed, woke up early, and plunged straight back into it, with a feeling of relief and pleasure, because I loved the central character so much.
He's the Magistrate (no name) and runs a small outpost, a little town, on the frontier of an Empire. A Secret Service man arrives in the first paragraph and from there it is downhill all the way. What can be done about paranoia and abuse of power?
Not a depressing book, on the contrary. I loved it.
Jenny Erpenbeck writes very very well, but her book was troublesome. Finishing the first novella - The Old Child - I felt the need for a shower, to wash off something evil ...The world described reminded me of Elfriede Jelinek's descriptions of Austria - which I could not read for long either. A world lacking kindness, lacking soul. The Child does her best to cope. It is unrelenting.
Both Jelinek and Erpenbeck are Austrian. The friend who lent me this book said that Erpenbeck's second novella, the Book of Words, was troublesome for her...I didn't dare read it.