What can we expect from a book where the protagonist is shot in the very first chapter? More shots? Yes. A flashback? Not quite. Nightmares? Perhaps. Further encounters with the main character? Definitely. She won’t let herself be beaten that easily. So much can happen. But that’s no reason to disappear from the scene. Neither for Marianne nor for the first-person narrator. In Xaver Bayer’s ‘Stories with Marianne’, every chapter is a new beginning. In the twenty sequences, the two main characters – Marianne and the narrator – run through a series of experiments. They are in turn absurd, frightening or oppressive, intermittently Kafkaesque, bizarre, funny, surprising or a combination of all of the above. Only one thing is certain: (almost) nothing can be trusted. But that doesn’t matter. The stories, unswervingly, follow their own inner logic, and dispense with the laws of nature. (SD)
Hidden on roofs behind window frames along the pedestrian zone in the historic city centre, where the concentration of luxury stores, banks and posh restaurants is the highest, snipers have been indiscriminately shooting at passers-by since 8am. In addition, terrorists have taken hostages and are holed up with them in nearby stores, bars, and hotels. According to cautious estimates on the radio, around thirty people have been killed so far – a number that is probably understated because from Marianne’s parents’ apartment alone, where we’ve been since last night, we’ve already counted twenty-one dead, and the pedestrian zone stretches beyond the area we can see. One of the houses at the beginning of the shopping boulevard has half collapsed and is in flames because an assassin blew himself up when special forces tried to storm the rooftop. Nobody seems to know where the snipers are actually positioned and how many terrorists are involved in the attack. All of downtown is cordoned off, and there is a curfew in place. From our windows we can see pools of blood where pedestrians have been struck down, some of them are still lying there; rescue workers have tried to save some, but they themselves have been shot at – as evidenced by a charred ambulance among other things. We also spotted a dead cameraman. Helicopters have been circling the city for hours. Allegedly the terrorists have shot down one of them in the meantime, but there’s still some confusion in the media about this. Hundreds of police officers in riot gear are posted in the surrounding alleys and military detachments have been deployed to support them. Several small tanks have now been set up in the pedestrian zone. At present, the attackers are keeping quiet. The air, however, is full of smoke and howling sirens, and again and again we hear the injured screaming in pain. To top it off, today is supposed to be the hottest day of the year, according to the week’s weather forecast. And rain isn’t expected to bring relief until evening or maybe even night. At present there are no clouds in the sky. Marianne has been in the kitchen for quite some time and I’ve made myself comfortable on the couch. Only now and then do I go to the window and inform her of the situation. Whenever I offer my help, she tells me it’s fine, she has everything under control. For a while I follow the live stream of a news station on Marianne’s tablet, even catch a glimpse of our apartment building, but then I think to myself, it’s ridiculous: I can actually view all of this up close. So I stand at the window again, eye the roof and the façade of the opposite building, and when I don’t see anyone, I stick my head out of the window. Just then, one of the security guards from the jewellers across the street does the same, he stretches his head out of the front door for a few seconds, and there’s a bang. He collapses, more shots are fired. Smoke cartridges are hurled into the middle of the pedestrian zone and cloud the area; obviously they want to rescue the man. A very loud detonation causes a few of the windows on the house facing us to burst – screams, more volleys, and the constant alarm sirens of some fancy stores ultimately prompts me to close the windows.
by Xaver Bayer
Translated by Ida Cerne
From Geschichten mit Marianne (‘Stories with Marianne’)
by Xaver Bayer
Introduced by Sabine Dengscherz
Translated by Ida Cerne
Published by Jung und Jung (2020)
First published by Literaturhaus Wien
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Xaver Bayer was born in Vienna. In addition to his novels, stories and plays, he has written texts for
collaborative works with the painters Martha Jungwirth and David Schnell and the art collective G.R.A.M. He also co-wrote the screenplay for the film Glanz des Tages (‘Shine of the Day’) by Rainer Frimmel and Tizza Covi, which won the Max Ophüls Prize.
Ida Cerne studied translation in Vienna, where she still lives, and specialises in translating poetry, fiction, screenplays and academic papers mainly from German, but also from Serbian and Russian, into English.