Winterreise by Gerhard Roth
Annotation by S. D. Stewart
Gerhard Roth’s main characters tend to carry a certain aimlessness about them. This goes hand in hand with a general lack of plot in his books. Winterreise is closer to The Will to Sickness on Roth’s spectrum of experimentalism, though more firmly rooted in realism than that earlier novel. Here, Nagl suddenly decides to leave his humdrum life as a schoolteacher and travel through southern Europe with an old lover named Anna. That one sentence handily sums up the plot. Nothing extraordinary happens. The text chiefly consists of Nagl ruminating on his existence, his relationship with Anna, and his grandfather’s life. He and Anna drift through Italy, sightseeing by day and making love at night. This is all described in Roth’s detailed, clinical prose, which is segmented into short passages, none any longer than a few pages. It makes for hypnotic reading, even as one realizes that there is no crescendo forthcoming.