'My name is Knisch, Sascha Knisch, and six days ago my life was in perfect order.' Knisch, who works as a projectionist at the Apollo movie theatre, is a person with special sexual habits. One night, he sees the enigmatic Dora Wilms. A week later, she is dead and Knisch is charged with murder. As he tries to clear his name, he discovers a scientific conspiracy and is drawn into the rich tangle of a story in which nothing is as it seems. How can he prove what didn't happen? What goes on at the Foundation for Sexual Research? And why is it important to have testicles? A biological thriller set in the steamy underworlds of Weimar Berlin in the sweltering summer of 1928, The Truth about Sascha Knisch deals with the so-called 'sexual question', its lures and seductiveness, dangers and temptations, but also with the shrewd passion between two young people in a Germany at the brink of disaster.
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(198mm x 129mm x 19mm)
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
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US Kirkus Review »
The kinky sex business in pre-Hitler Germany spawns a suspicious death in a murky novel by Swedish author Knisch that often reads more like a treatise than a thriller. It's the summer of 1928 in an unnamed city that is evidently Berlin. The narrator, 29-year-old Sascha Knisch, moved there a few years earlier from his hometown, Vienna; he's a part-time projectionist at a movie theater. Sascha is also a transvestite who makes regular visits to Dora Wilms, who's a softer version of a dominatrix. Their current session is interrupted by the doorbell. Sascha, dressed as a schoolgirl, hides in the closet. He later emerges to find the visitor gone and Dora dead. That's the setup, but don't expect a suspenseful narrative. For most of the novel Dora is alive, in flashbacks; we don't learn until almost the end whether she died of natural causes. What's front and center is the "sexual question," by which Fioretos means the "obscure drives" that shape sexual identities. For Sascha the key moment came in a high-school art class, when Sascha was the model and his fellow students, prompted by their teacher, drew him as a woman. Dora's past involved exhibitionism, sex with her brother, a teenage pregnancy and a baby given up for adoption. Their interests take them to the Foundation for Sexual Research, where they learn about the "grey sex" and the wondrous properties of semen and testicles. Periodically Fioretos returns to the investigation, while adding complications. Is some missing film the key to Dora's death? Is Sascha's best friend Anton, a porn filmmaker, playing a double game? What is the significance of the Brotherhood, a band of vigilantes? A final difficulty: Fioretos wrote his novel in his native Swedish. His own translation leads to some awkward locutions (e.g., "my heart inched up a few notches.")A dismal farrago that illuminates neither character nor sexuality. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Aris Fioretos
Of Greek and Austrian descent, Aris Fioretos was born and raised in Sweden. He was educated at Stockholm and Yale Universities. The recipient of numerous prizes and fellowships, he has published several books in his native country, and also rendered the works of Vladimir Nabokov into Swedish. The Truth about Sascha Knisch is his first novel in English. Aris Fioretos lives with his wife and daughter in Berlin, where he is currently the counsellor for culture at the Swedish Embassy.