Michael Zöllner On:
Milkface by Jan Snela
Jan Snela’s “Milkface” is the eponymous story of a collection whose subtitle is ‘A Bestiary of Love’. All the stories are tales of becoming and changing, and almost all are, in a figurative sense, metamorphoses, animal transformations. But the bestial and animalistic in our society has become domesticated to such an extent that the difference between the animal and the human is not always easy to discern. In Jan Snela’s short story “Milkface”, which won him the Berlin literary competition Open Mike a few years ago, a cuckolded wellness maniac with a fondness for milk baths mutates into a unicorn. Snela’s characters (and the characters in this story are no exception) are, for the most part, modern nomads in a day-to-day life turned desert. Imagine a cast of sundry Pollyannas and do-gooders and idealists. These characters belong to another time altogether; they are cheerful desperadoes (mostly with no reason to be cheerful) who create their own myths, from which issue forth improvised world orders. There is no right life in the wrong one for them – although there is perhaps a different life. And that seems to me very close to the attitude of a generation marked by anti-globalisation, anti-capitalism, political disenchantment and social isolation. But in spite of its contemporaneity, Jan Snela’s writing is also influenced by Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Art of Love, by the songs of the Provençal troubadours and by Richard de Fournival’s Bestiary of Love. So next time you feel like a milk bath, but don’t have any milk in the house, I would advise you to read Jan Snela’s “Milkface” instead.