Thursday, December 15, 2011

REVIEW: Shadow Without a Name by Igancio Padilla


"My father used to say his name was Viktor Kretzschmar. He was a pointsman on the Munich-Salzburg line and not the type to decide, on the spur of the moment, to commit a crime." 

So begins the brilliant Shadow Without a Name, a book that doubtless deserves the award for best opening lines in a novel in recent memory. The narrator here is Franz Kretzschmar, a young recruit in the Third Reich, haunted by questions of identity--both of his own and his father's. As he recounts, on an old dilapidated train long ago, Viktor Kretzschmar met Thadeus Dreyer. Both expert chess players, a deal was struck: "if my father won, the other man would take his place on the eastern front and hand over his job as pointsman in hut nine on the Munich-Salzburg line. If, on the other hand, my father lost, he would shoot himself before the train reached its destination." As a result of that wager, a Viktor Kretzschmar spends the rest of his days as a frustrated pointsman and Lieutenant Colonel Thadeus Dreyer is decorated with the Iron Cross for his actions on the front.

The rest of the review, originally published on June 18, 2003, is here.

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