Monday, October 03, 2011

Fiction: The Price of Escape by David Unger

It seems that just about everyone who has read or reviewed The Price of Escape (Akashic) has referenced Franz Kafka or Joseph Conrad. Or both. You don’t have to be a literary genius to understand that’s not necessarily a good thing. Both of those writers were brilliant, sure. And both of them touched a lot of people with their prose. But there’s some crazy dark shit that goes on in both of their works and not only does everyone not find them accessible, some readers find the work of both Conrad and Kafka horrifyingly dense and self-examining.

These are all reason why you may or may not love Guatemalan author David Unger’s quirky voice and style and story. If you have to compare The Price of Escape to the work of some other writer, those are definitely the two that come to mind. So if you loathe Conrad and Kafka, you might want to give Unger a miss. Seriously. But if you loved, say, Heart of Darkness or The Metamorphosis, The Price of Escape might just be for you.

Samuel Berkow jumps out of the Nazi fire only to find himself in a Guatemalan frying pan when he finds himself in Puerto Barrios at the whim of a host of almost supernaturally horrible characters. And it becomes impossible for Samuel to tell the good guys from the bad guys as seeming help turns into more despair and vice versa. What do they want with Samuel? Are they, as it seems, out to destroy him? Or are they hoping to evoke a complete metamorphosis? Or is something still more sinister -- or less? -- at work here? After you’ve finished reading, let me know if you’re sure. Weeks later, though I know I enjoyed The Price of Escape, I’m still hard-pressed to explain exactly how it all comes out.



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