Sandra Heinrici On:

Sloth by Eva Menasse

The first time I read Eva Menasse’s short story collection Lässliche Todsünden (‘Venial Mortal Sins’), I was flabbergasted at the way she manages to judge people so ruthlessly and at the same time with such affection. In her stories, Menasse searches for archaic patterns in a postsmodern society. More than anything, though, she shows with psychological brilliance and superfine irony how we humans fail each other. And how we fail ourselves. When Fritz talks to ‘that Hilda woman’ in the bar called Paradise Now, even though she’s sitting in front of a grass-green cocktail, it could be his last chance to change tack – to wrest a little happiness of his own from his ex-wife and daughters. And already the vexed puzzle of self-perception and the perception of others has begun. Is this a man who’s wasting his life? Is he being manipulated by his own daughters? Or is it the reverse? Is he, in fact, clinging to the only things that really matter? Fritz’s happy sense of security, the suffocating confinement of the life of slothful ease he has settled down to, his excitement just before the putative severing of the Gordian knot – all this is written into this apparently light story with immense sophistication. In the end, nothing is solved; the vital questions have only grown more urgent. But for that very reason, “Sloth”, like so many of Menasse’s stories, leaves us all the wiser.