“When the Time Comes is a lyrical record of a village that has been “fucked” by God, though it is often unclear whether Pulsnitz prays to the Catholic God or Charles Baudelaire’s Satan, or even to the memory of National Socialism. … Winkler never prettifies his dead, and his accomplished work of memory could be read as a sustained act of treachery. Even his best-loved aunt, Hildegard, is recalled — in her declining years — as a woman who “spoke derangedly and always smelled of excrement.” In this, Winkler’s ethic resembles that of Thomas Bernhard in Extinction, which rejects the instinctive rule that “a false light must be cast on the dead.” We only “sanctify the dead,” writes Bernhard, “in order to be safe from them”; and it is precisely the dignity of the dead that requires a certain brutality in recollecting them: “Whoever dies has led a real life . . . whatever it was like, and no one is entitled to falsify it.” Josef Winkler is a writer who is not safe from his dead, and who — by cataloguing their deaths without falsifying their lives — can leave us less safe from our own.”
David Van Dusen, “Death becomes them,” Times Literary Supplement (January 10, 2014) 21.
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