Thursday 13 December 2012

Maybe This Time by Alois Hotschnig

Maybe This Time is the third volume in the Peirene Press series Male Voices (I have also read and reviewed Next World Novella and Tomorrow Pamplona).  It's different from the other volumes as it's actually a collection of nine short stories, tied together around the themes of alienation, voyeurism and loss of identity.  Characters wake up as completely different people, meet sinister dolls that look identical to them, become obsessed with watching neighbours and waste their lives waiting for a relative to turn up.  There's a surreal under-tone to all of the stories and they aim to unsettle.

Although I enjoyed the writing in Maybe This Time and respect the imagination of the author, ultimately this book just wasn't for me.  Whilst I like unsettling and creepy, gothic style tales, I struggle with surreal works of fiction.  I don't enjoy the surreal elements of Alice in Wonderland, let alone the works of authors like Kafka and Hotschnig.  I think what bothered me in this particular collection was not the surrealism itself, but the way the characters responded to it.  In one short story, the main character is invited into an old lady's house only to find that she collects dolls, one of which has his name and looks exactly like him, even down to the clothes he is wearing.  I think a normal reaction to this would be to leave and never return but Karl just doesn't come across as shocked enough, and this is consistent across the collection.

I think Maybe This Time would be enjoyable for readers who enjoy the surreal.  As I said, the writing is good and Hotschnig tackles some important themes (identity, alienation).  I'm just not the right reader for it.  I suppose in a set of nine books, I'm bound to find one that doesn't work for me.

Source: From the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
First published in English: 2011
Score: 2.5 out of 5


  1. This does sound like a strange read.
    I think I like stories to either be realistic or so totally different that I can immerse myself in a new world. It's tough sometimes to become invested when it seems almost like real life with a few subtle changes.

  2. I adored these nine tales they have an interior logic of their own, like dreamscapes they inhabit that hinterland just outside our line of sight, just beyond our awakened selves and can easily trip over into a nightmare realm. Hotschnig comes over as a bored and decadent God playing a malevolent game of Sims