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This review is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

ENDOSCOPE Martin Walser, The Inner Man, (André Deutsch) £9.95

Forget all those American 'road' novels; Kerouac obsessed with approaching always nearer by never keeping still, and Pirsig with all those wide open spaces commensurate only with his capacity for wonder: it takes a writer from the place where the Autobahn was invented to convince us that it is never better to travel than to arrive. Martin Walser's The Inner Man charts three significant months in the career of Xaver Zürn, chauffeur to a West German industrialist who is determined to attend every performance of a Mozart opera on the European mainland in the second half of the twentieth century. Zürn is a man in love with the idea of being on the road, who has found it in practice an annihilating experience: every bend in the road he negotiates becomes the chance to accelerate into oblivion; every lorry he passes in the rain a memento mori for himself and his hated cargo, Dr Gleitze. The forces which drive Zürn to contemplate both suicide and murder seem at first comic, born as they are out of Zürn's regular and pressing need to use a toilet despite his employer's disapproval, who regards his chauffeur as merely an extension of his Mercedes 450. Zürn suffers in body and spirit: he develops a bowel condition and nurtures a festering hatred for Gleitze. But Walser's novel is not solely on the level of Swiftian scatology (although Walser, like B.S. Johnson, relishes the observation that characters in realistic fiction must be seen to be ...


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