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The Mill: A Cosmos

Bess Brenck Kalischer (2021)

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Bess Brenck Kalischer’s only work of prose was first published in German in 1922 and is translated here into English for the first time. Narrated by a woman being held in a sanitarium after having suffered a mental breakdown, The Mill is less a novel than a rhythmic, hallucinatory, and fractured sequence of prose poems. On its publication, the German author Mynona described it as “more a mill, a cosmos flower, a lyricism and romantic spell than it is a ‘novel.’” Shifting from pedestrian concerns to cosmic visions, from the setting of a basement mushroom farm to scenes on Sirius, from lying restrained on a bed to lying in a coffin made of moonbeams, Kalischer’s narrator weaves together literary satire, anguished dream states, and shifting forms of subjectivity. Woodlice and snails become protagonists, apes and a camel engage in philosophy, lucid analysis slips into suffering or joyous exaltation, and the narrator transforms alternately into a mouse-muse or a pillar in a mausoleum. As much Maldoror as Munchausen, Christian as Canaanite, The Mill describes an unstable journey to psychic restoration that is as radically experimental today as when it was first published a century ago.


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