Smock co-owner, Debbie Urbanski, is an avid lover of nature and the earth as well as a lover of literature and the written word, so she was thrilled to pass along her first recommendation for this week’s installment of Smock Eco Reads. Debbie shared a bit of insight into The Wall, a 1962 novel by Austrian author Marlen Haushofer that she recently read and I know I personally can’t wait to read this novel after her review…
So I’ll admit that the premise of this novel did not sound mind altering or gripping – something happens in the world to pretty much everyone, some kind of catastrophe, and this woman becomes trapped in the mountains behind an invisible wall with only a dog, a cat, and a cow for companions. There really aren’t any other people, other than the narrator, in the entire novel. And let me get this out in the open: though I love the world, the planet, and I’m a vegetarian, I’m not a pet person. I don’t really get pets. So a book about a woman whose major companion is her dog? I spent a week with this book on my nightstand, staring at the cover, wondering if I was ever going to get past the first page. But when I started reading, I found a book that was beautiful, moving, gripping, sad, quiet, and amazing.
It’s not a “hit you over the head” environmental book, but it does suggest the devastation and violence that people bring to each other and the landscape. And it does show how a quiet simple life in the middle of nowhere can be filled with complexity and beauty. And it also shows how small humans are, and how big the “other” is – the animal world, the natural world. And it has some of the best descriptions I’ve ever read of mountains — how they’re mesmerizing and menacing and jaw-dropping and scary and gorgeous. But in addition to this, it’s just a gripping read. There is hint of a tragedy that’s finally revealed in the last few pages and I couldn’t take the suspense–I had to read ahead.
The narrator is a meditative soul that I missed the moment the book was finished. It’s been a month or two since I closed up the Wall, and I still miss the book, and I really haven’t been able to get into another novel since. The one small tragedy of this book – I haven’t met anyone else who has read it, let along heard of it (I found it in a great list book called 500 Great Books by Women). So pick this book up, read it, and then pass it on to a friend. It looks like it’s out of print, but you can buy it used or find it at your library, which is more eco anyway.
I did some digging around and it looks as though there are a few used copies of The Wall available on Amazon as well as on Half, including some rare first edition prints. If you end up picking this one up, make sure to let us know!