Marlen Haushofer’s The Wall

Imagine that anyone could listen to your inner voice, that relentless dialogue that swings from megalomania to despair and all points in-between. How would the world alter if that soundless interior dialogue we carry on with ourselves was broadcast: a personal radio channel available to anyone who knew where to turn the dial?

Tapping into interiority, capturing the capriciousness of this inner dialogue is what Marlen Haushofer does so well in both The Wall and The Loft. Despite The Wall supposedly being Haushofer’s magnum opus, to my mind The Loft is the better novel. The Wall is a thought experiment: take one woman, one cat, one dog and a cow and make them the only creatures alive. How do they cope, physically and mentally?

The Wall is a study in minimalism and repetition, the monotonous regularity of survival and caring for animals. Thrust into a Thoreauvian environment, the narrator writes a report of this existence. What elevates Haushofer’s story from the quotidian is how well she captures internal dialogue, and how beautifully she creates realistic animal characters without ever lapsing into anthropomorphic mawkishness.

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