Christoph, a middle-aged writer, has a story to share with Lena, a young actress. A long time ago, he was in a relationship with a woman called Magdalena, who was also an actress. Lena is currently in a relationship with a man called Chris, who is also a writer. As the two talk, it becomes clear that the two relationships contain echoes, similarities, and coincidences too remarkable to be called coincidences. Are Chris and Lena doomed to repeat Christoph and Magdalena's broken relationship, or are Christoph and Magdalena a warning from the future? Who really exists? Is there such a thing as fate?
And so begins a uniquely existential game of past and present that will leave no one unharmed.
Swiss novelist Stamm (To the Back of Beyond) ruminates on fictions of the past and the recursive nature of time in this excellent doppelganger tale. Cristoph, a successful Swiss writer living in Stockholm, notices an actor with a startling resemblance to his ex-girlfriend and, after following her, sends a note to her hotel room: "Please come to the forest cemetery tomorrow, two p.m. I have a story to tell." The actor, Lena, is unnerved that Cristoph divulges intimate details about her life and the work of her aspiring novelist boyfriend, Chris. As the two walk through Stockholm, Cristoph tells Lena of a time when he returned to his home village and stayed in a hotel where he used to work as a night porter. When he arrived late, the porter on duty was "like looking into a mirror." As Cristoph unspools his theory about Lena being a doppelg nger for his former girlfriend, Magdelena (who was also an actor), this amorphous tale folds in on itself, becoming a meditation on how memory can distort reality: "It's like having a play put on by several directors. The scenes look different, even the words can be changed or cut, but the action follows its unvarying course." Fans of Julian Barnes will love this.