the short story project

The Corpse

Jan Valk On:

The Corpse by Clemens J. Setz

When we enter Clemens J. Setz’s short prose pieces we find ourselves with one foot in the familiar and the other in the unknown. But strangely, we are always on firm ground. Everything seems solidly built; the vertigo takes a while to set in. The setting, for instance, is familiar: the stories often start off in the everyday world, in perfectly normal places. Also familiar is the frame of reference we seem to recognise – the allusions to literary predecessors, the virtuoso mix of references poached from a wide variety of cultural areas. What is unfamiliar, not to say brilliantly new, is what Setz does with his material, the way he assembles the various elements. Because one thing we can be sure of: whenever we think we’re wise to him, whenever we think we know what’s coming next, things turn out quite differently. The Corpse begins unabashedly with what is, since Kafka, probably the most infamous conjunction in German: When. But the main character doesn’t wake from troubled dreams; he comes home – as you do in the late capitalist era – after a day’s work. And instead of finding himself metamorphosed into some monstrous creature, he finds a naked woman on his rug. At the very latest when it becomes clear that what’s bothering him is not the fact that the woman is a corpse, but that he’s going to have to draw the curtains and shut out the nice spring light, we are treading oblique Setzian territory – and the glorious lurch through the skewed logic of the story can begin.