Thomas Berger, 1924-2014


“More than anything, the paradoxical logic by which Berger unfolds his scenes connects him to Kafka. Too many contemporary writers kowtow to Kafka in mummery: ostentatiously dreamlike settings, Shadows and Fog-ian Eastern European atmosphere or diction. Berger engages with Kafka’s influence at a more native and universal level, by grasping the way Kafka reconstructed fictional time and causality to align it with his emotional and philosophical reservations about human life. Berger’s tone, like Kafka’s, never oversells paranoia or despair, and the results are, actually, never dreamlike. Instead, Berger locates that part of our waking life that unfolds in the manner of Zeno’s Paradox, where it is possible only to fall agonizingly short in any effort to be understood, or to do good.”
— Jonathan Lethem wrote this about the great Thomas Berger over a decade ago. Berger died earlier this month. This is his most famous book, and it’s probably still a good starting point, but this is pretty great too. Also: the rest of them. Berger was 89.