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Eiserne mimosen.

The author's name and the volume's title appear in lowercase letters on the spine of this book's dead-white cardboard cover, and indeed no capital letters occur throughout eiserne mimosen. Most of the work's thirty-six sections are subdivided by a line across the page, and within these subdivisions speakers are designated as in a play. Apparently there are only two speakers, "man" and "woman," or at other times "er" and "sie" (he and she), plus a third more authoritative "voice from the tape." This tape voice both opens in section 1 and closes the volume in section 36. The first words, "noch kein licht" (still no light), surely mean "it still hasn't dawned" rather than indicating actual darkness on stage. The tape voice's opening lines impersonally describe physical movement: "The hand jerks / the mouth screams / the legs rush away" (italics mine). The next cluster of the three on the page informs, again impersonally, "es heisst" (it is said): "we are surrounded" and "something is grabbing for us." Then, in the last two lines of the final cluster, "the stairs move and the floor rises." Surely the stage does not physically rise; instead, these tape voice lines only describe "his" and "her" psychological condition, intense fear. The stage direction for section 2 on the next page shows a continuation of the earlier "still no light" with its indication of "weak light." Here "he" and "she" have only a single line each, of three and four words respectively. He says, "I just can't." Her reply: "You have no choice." Their situation is not explained. The rest of the page, but for these lines, is blank. And so are others in the volume, such as page 63.

At the bottom of one very full page toward the end, where both a man's voice and the tape voice appear, there occurs the sole mention of the unexplained title, "Iron Mimosas," to which the abbreviation "etc." has been added (section 31). In section 31, as in many others, the topic is sex. One might expect this of the work's very young author, who was only twenty-seven upon publication of the play in 1996 and who also shows another characteristic of the young, their delight in shocking their staid elders. Hence the lowercase type and the total lack of punctuation here, as well as the unorthodox stagecraft: the dialogue which reflects thought more often than speech, and the absence of such standard components of drama as plot and action, though the play was performed at the Graz avant-garde festival of the arts, Styrian Autumn, where it was awarded a prize. Indeed, Anselm Gluck shows great talent, particularly for evoking overheard conversation with its obscenities and its often gossipy, sometimes hurtful provocations - here, of course, rendered in southern, Austrian German.

Gluck's non-play has its great seriousness: it concerns the danger of humanity's annihilation in our nuclear age. Though not lacking irony, the work mostly lacks humor, except perhaps for a single-line black-and-white drawing - is it Gluck's? - although the bisexual being that is depicted is relegated to the dustjacket and does not break the immaculate white of the volume itself.

Marjorie L. Hoover New York
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Author:Hoover, Marjorie L.
Publication:World Literature Today
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1998
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