The Wall – Marlen Haushofer
- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: Quartet Books; New edition (6 Jun 2013)
- Source : Publisher
- My Rating : 4 stars
Originally published in German (Die Wand) in 1968, The Wall is experiencing a renaissance of interest in recent times with a new reissue from Quartet Books and a film adaptation released in the UK in July 2013.
One morning an unassuming, middle-aged woman wakes up in the Austrian Alps to find out that she is the last person alive on earth. She was visiting a cousin at a hunting lodge but now she is completely alone with an invisible wall separating her from the rest of the world where every living thing has ceased to breathe and is now frozen in time. I immediately thought of Stephen King’s Under the Dome but this is no apocalyptic scene complete with pandemonium – all is quiet and “this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper”.
Some years later, our anonymous narrator decides to record her experiences on scraps of paper, perhaps as an act of self-confirmation to prove she still exists. It’s not an exciting life by modern standards but her descriptions of daily life on the mountain provide an interesting interpretation of what it might be like to be totally isolated with no human contact. Initially, it’s not so bad – rations are plentiful, Lynx the dog is a faithful companion, the unnamed cat, although scornful of open affection, provides some companionship. A lost cow provides a much needed food source as well as another contact. With the arrival of Winter, everything changes…
Deer have to be shot if there is to be meat on the table, potatoes and other vegetables must be planted on time, logs need cutting for fuel. Our lonesome woman fends for herself very well and doesn’t seem too bothered by loneliness – I wonder how comfortable any of us would be in a similar situation?
This is a slow-paced, contemplative read and I really enjoyed taking time out and sharing the narrator’s experiences as she gets closer to nature and sees the beauty in the detail of her surroundings.