Most of the individuals in these austerely written stories by Swiss novelist Stamm (Unformed Landscape, 2005, etc.) lead humdrum but desperate lives…While Stamm doesn’t discount the possibility of happiness and comradeship, there is invariably an ounce of joy for every pound of gloom.
“Stamm’s cool, observational style often lends the impression that he is passing through his stories, witnessing the unfolding of events from the window as he goes by. Something of the peculiar dynamic among passengers—safeguarding their anonymity in the proximity of strangers, impinging imperceptibly on one another’s lives, sharing an elusive intimacy that is intrinsically disconnected—seeps into the relationships of his characters. Finally, his unique sense of place corresponds to what he calls the ‘empty, timeless space of train travel,’ the sensation of inhabiting a transitory nowhere. His characters dwell in this negative space, out of place in the ‘strange gardens’ in which they find themselves. Using them as receptors of the word, Stamm registers restlessness and unease, irresolution, glimpses of the void….With artful understatement, Stamm conveys the mutability of experience, a phenomenon as inscrutable as variations in the weather."
These particular stories leap off the page, a pleasant surprise ….
…short story collections [that] particularly impressed me: Peter Stamm’s In Strange Gardens and Other Stories…Stamm is Swiss, and writes in German. His stories seem very cool, but it’s the kind of cool that burns.