Ten very wet stories of floods and rainstorms make up Gert Loschutz's Dark Company, a set of surreal wanderings through the drenched streets of a nameless German town as well as through the labyrinths of memory. His narrator, Thomas, is a 35-year-old skipper who lost his barge to a wrecker's yard and has since worked as an agent for a locomotive sleeping-car company, an agent for a shipping line and the captain of a ship. His tales of adventure have the authenticity of Joseph Conrad, but with a modern unreliability and faltering over details more like Kafka. The fragments of plot, blurred by the passage of time, are rife with missing chunks of information and confused identities, with people who look like friends and lovers from his past but may not be, or who mistake Thomas for someone else.
For Loschutz, atmosphere is all. His tales are full of indirection and suggested connections; meaningful looks are exchanged, mysterious notes change hands. In "It's Not Friday Yet," Thomas may have witnessed a murder, and provides readers with clues that hover on the edge of a conclusion we can't quite see. The sound of a roaring train, the gate into a garden, a woman glimpsed in a travel agency window--all serve as triggers unleashing literary accordions of memories-within-memories, until the dizzy reader, like poor Thomas, can't tell the difference between then and now. The actual story being told here and in the novel's other sections, however, is murky, the few fragments of narrative often inconclusive, and the undertow of the language, charged with an urgent panic as Thomas tries to pin down what has happened to him, causes a mounting sense of menace. Always lurking nearby is a dark company of men and women dressed entirely in black, not moving, eyes straight ahead, glimpsed in museum paintings or floating by on barges, ominous and silent. The characters who depart with them never return.
Loschutz's stories-within-stories are workingman's tales zigzagging through the world from Berlin to Manhattan, from Vienna to Poland. His heroes are truckers and porters, bargemen and naval cadets, on boats and trains and cross-country trucks, making their way through the fog and the rain, encountering little horrors along the way. --Nick DiMartino
Shelf Talker: A rainstorm unleashes 10 tales of floods and barges and mistaken identities, as Loschutz spins classic German weird fiction with a contemporary blue-collar twist.