The Austrian Riveter: From DIE NACHRICHT by Doris Knecht, translated by Lucy Jones

Compelling, fast-paced and self-aware, Doris Knecht’s The Message is a deftly told novel by a writer at the top of her game. Examining our obsession with social media from a feminist perspective, it interweaves a tense and sometimes dark narrative with delicate, detailed descriptions of everyday life. Told in the first person, The Message reads almost like a diary.

The first message came on a Sunday in September. I was sitting on a bench in the shade behind the house, smoking a cigarette, my laptop balanced on my knees, without an inkling that this was when my situation would shift again, just slightly. Wolf was sitting next to me, scrolling through his phone and not smoking. He’d hated the habit since he’d given it up a few months ago and tried to convert anyone who still did it. I normally avoided smoking when he was around, but I’d been looking forward to this cigarette all afternoon and was trying to enjoy it, which was getting harder by the minute.

The message was in the inbox of my official Messenger account on Facebook. I have two accounts – one in my name and a private one in a name only my friends know. I can remember the yellow autumn light, the mild breeze and the hue of the sky above me. It was a warm greenish-blue, streaked with fading jet streams. Wolf and I had been walking in the mountains all day and now we were back home, pleasantly worn out, drinking wine together on the bench that stood next to the wall, and I felt that I would have preferred to be alone. I would have preferred to smoke, read my emails, look at the news, and scroll through Instagram and Twitter alone. 

The message was sent by a faceless person called Ernst Breuer. I first wanted to delete it unread but then my curiosity got the better of me. Just as I clicked on the message, Wolf made a gesture with his hand, wafting my cigarette smoke away just very lightly. 

I got up and said: ‘Should I sit somewhere else?’ 

‘No, of course not. It’s fine,’ replied Wolf with such an impeccable long-suffering look on his face that I moved to the other side of the bench anyway, wine glass in one hand, laptop in the other, and the cigarette that I was no longer enjoying between my lips. I could have just stubbed it out, but it was my lungs, my air, my life.  

The message from the faceless person contained just one sentence: Do you know about your handsome husband’s affair?

By Doris Knecht

Translated by Lucy Jones

A version of this piece was first published on the New Books in German website.


(‘The Message’)

By Doris Knecht

Translated by Lucy Jones

Published by Hanser Verlag (2021)

Translation funding guaranteed via New Books in German

Read The Austrian Riveter here or order your paper copy from here.

Buy books from The Austrian Riveter through the European Literature Network’s The Austrian Riveter page.

Doris Knecht is a columnist and writer. Her first novel, Gruber geht (‘Gruber Goes’, 2011), was nominated
for the German Book Prize and filmed for cinema. She is a recipient of the Ravensburg Foundation’s literary prize and the Book Prize of the Vienna Economy.

Lucy Jones is a literary translator and writer who lives in Berlin. She has translated books by Anke Stelling, Theresia Enzensberger and Silke Scheuermann, among others, and her own writing has been published in Litro Magazine, SAND Journal, Pigeon Papers NYC and 3:AM Magazine. Her translation of Siblings by Brigitte Reimann will be published in spring 2023 by Penguin Classics and Transit Books.

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