The Wall by Marlen Haushofer was written by an Austrian woman in 1963, I think.
An unnamed woman goes to stay at a cabin with her cousin and her cousin’s husband but after they head down to the pub for the night a mysterious wall suddenly appears and all the animals outside the wall die an apparently peaceful death. And the woman is stuck inside this wall with a cat, a dog, and a cow.
And for the next year she survives there on her own.
Just about everywhere I looked it had great reviews. It’s been made into a movie and was entered in the Academy Awards. But, seriously, it’s as boring as hell.
There is no attempt to explain the wall. It isn’t a dome, because rain can still get in, but the poison or whatever killed all the animals can’t get in. The woman reasons that it doesn’t go far beneath the ground because a stream still manages to get out.
So this woman lives with her animals. She doesn’t follow the wall all the way around to see how big the inside is (though it seems to cover quite a large area). There are other houses and cabins and whatnot inside, but she doesn’t go to investigate, to see if there is anything she can use. In the one she does eventually visit she finds a couple of blankets but leaves them behind because she won’t need them. Excuse me? What? If I’m stuck in her situation I’ll be taking anything that could conceivably be useful, just in case. (And later in the story she talks about her clothes wearing out. Ummm, if she had some blankets she could make herself some new clothes, maybe.)
In the first summer she moves herself and her animals to that other house because there is better grazing for the cow (and its calf which comes along mid-story) but, instead of using the very tame cow to carry some of her stuff the seven miles (or something), she makes about six trips over the next few days. Maybe the cow wouldn’t have liked carrying stuff (I know I don’t) but she didn’t even try. And if I had to hear about her cleaning out the cow’s damn bier one more time I was going to scream.
The story covers about a year and at the very end another person does turn up. (Obviously, she could have found this person a long time ago if she’d made a bit of effort, though obviously the stranger made no effort either.) And this man kills the calf. Then it kills the dog. We don’t know why he does these things. We don’t get the chance to find out because the woman shoots him.
And that’s it.
I read one review that described the book as horror. I don’t know how they came up with that idea. I don’t read a lot of horror, admittedly, but The Wall is not like any horror I’ve heard of. Post-apocalyptic? Yes. If the apocalypse comes doped up on sleeping pills. It’s not deep. It’s not interesting. It’s just plain boring. Thank god it’s over.
The book was also a bit disappointing in that I didn’t really learn anything about Austria which was one of the points of doing this challenge. It mentions that it’s set in Austria a couple of times and mentions the main character being stuck in a cellar during WW2 (written in 1963, remember) but could quite easily have been set in the US or anywhere else. So I may have to avoid sci-fi and fantasy in the future. (Though maybe if the book had been any good I wouldn’t have complained.)
Also, I was going to go with all paper books for my 205 Books but didn’t mind doing the audio-book thing instead and will do it again in the future if I get the opportunity (for the sake of speed if nothing else).
Another one down. Next is Azerbaijan. I’ve been looking for something but it is so far proving a bit difficult to get something from the library. As ever, I’ll let you know when I make a decision.