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Norbert Gstrein

The second Jacob

Carl Hanser Verlag, Munich 2021
ISBN 9783446269163
Hardcover, 448 pages, 25.00 EUR

Blurb

"Of course nobody wants to be sixty." This is the beginning of Jacob's life confession. The well-known actor, about whom a publisher is planning a biography, is dreading what is to come. Then his daughter asks him the question that blows everything up: "What is the worst thing that you have ever done?" Jakob remembers shooting a film on the Mexican-American border. He only noticed the murders of women and the misery there in a distant manner - but twice he was suddenly right in the middle of it. He is ashamed, wrestles with the simple judgments of the world and longs for happiness in glistening memories. Why is he not an original, but always only "the second Jacob"?

Review note on Die Zeit, April 8th, 2021

For reviewer Hubert Winkels, Norbert Gstrein got himself a nice 60th birthday present with this book. In such a wildly youthful and skilfully anti-realistic way, the author tells a story set between Tyrol and New Mexico about an acting outlaw with a guilt complex. So that soon Winkels no longer knows what is true about what is just made up. The storyline fits in with this: biographer interviews protagonists. The fact that in the end not even death is certain amazes and entertains Winkels alike.

Review note on Deutschlandfunk Kultur, March 20, 2021

Caution, warns reviewer Helmut Böttiger. It's not as harmless as the novel does at the beginning. This is mainly due to the main character, the actor Jakob Thurner, who, although he always tells from a first-person perspective, seems to be different in every episode. Family problems and difficulties on the set on the American-Mexican border crop up, we learn that Thurner is becoming more and more opaque and unsympathetic. The reviewer assures us that this does not detract from the enthusiasm for the novel. He praises the book as a great artist novel and "sparkling literary puzzle".

Review note on Neue Zürcher Zeitung, February 16, 2021

Reviewer Roman Bucheli learns from Norbert Gstrein that nobody is masters of their own history, neither in the present nor in relation to the past. Gestrein's hero, an aging actor with a dark secret, upsets Bucheli because he's such a whimper and he messes up everything he touches. The fact that Bucheli still follows his story until Gstrein has written his character to the ground is due to the speed, the dense structure of the story and its casualness, which Bucheli considers artistic.

Review note on Süddeutsche Zeitung, February 15, 2021

Is Hilmar Klute now shocked or enthusiastic about this novel, which he retells in detail and refers in its motifs to the previous novel by the writer, "When I was young"? In any case, the anger in it, probably at the "present" in toto, blew him away to some extent. In addition, he was also fascinated by the mirror cabinet of allusions and literary references, which repeatedly turns into a game with biographical, self-referential elements. The story of an aging actor struggling with his daughter and a life debt is for this critic, in its complex construction, a kind of artistic self-localization - and an "artistic achievement" in general, which could be meant a little bit ambiguously.
Read the review at buecher.de

Review note on Deutschlandfunk, February 15, 2021

In a detailed review, reviewer Christoph Schröder shows the complex web of plot that Norbert Gstrein expands in his new novel. "The second Jacob" tells of the successful Innsbruck actor Jakob Thurner, who shortly before his sixtieth birthday gets to grips with a biographer, and on a second level of filming in the south of the USA, on the border with Mexico in the eighties. In these latter, atmospherically very suggestive passages, the reviewer feels reminded of David Lynch's films. Thanks to Gstrein's stylistic elegance and melodious language, the reader does not even notice, the reviewer warns, what monstrosities are being acclaimed for him in "beauty and sophistication". But what Gstrein actually wants, Schröder also recognizes: Basically, the novel is a "large-scale identity erasure program", a counterprogram to the identity-political debates that want to determine people's origin, skin color and gender, Schröder believes: a novel that focuses on humanity persists.

Review note on Die Welt, 02/13/2021

Reviewer Richard Kämmerlings sees everything else in Norbert Gstrein's new novel, just not an old work. How the author once again introduces an unreliable narrator, an actor in this case who is reviewing his life and thus a deep-seated question of guilt and a lie, Kämmerlings seems worth reading. For him, Gstrein's reconstructions are chamber play-like treasures, criminal interrogations that keep surprising the reader with new twists and turns. That reminds Kämmerlings of Max Frisch, but even more of Gstrein.