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Edyta’s Blog: Stephanie and the world of distorted reality

If you have just discovered Dedalus and you are browsing for the first time through the sections on this website, you are probably wondering what the books which represent the Dedalus genre of distorted reality, where the bizarre and the grotesque combine, are about. What is bizarre for Dedalus and what happens in these bizarre books?
I have written for this blog about a few such books: Stefan Grabinski’s ‘The Dark Domain,’ Andrew Crumey’s ‘Pfitz’ and David Madsen’s ‘Memoirs of a Gnostic Dwarf’. All have unusual characters and no shortage of bizarre events and merge a recognisable reality with a fantasy world. Grabinski veers between horror and realism and gives us grotesque images of death and destruction. Crumey creates warm and memorable characters who we empathise with even though they are pawns in the author’s Chinese box narrative. Madsen is the supreme storyteller and the reader cannot help but keep reading despite the outlandish and grotesque events and the large dollops of excess. These authors have almost nothing in common except for a love of the bizarre and the unusual and the way they challenge readers to jettison their preconceptions and leave the mundane world for the baroque splendours of the imagination
There is yet another story which, to my mind, defines Dedalus’s genre, Herbert Rosendorfer’s ‘Stephanie,’ published by Dedalus in 1995. It is a very unusual story. The first two sentences set the tone:
”An hour ago I came back from my brother-in-law’s funeral. I have to admit that I never liked him.”
From that moment I felt sure that this would not be a straightforward narrative but a novel full of surprises. And I was right. The narrator is recounting a story about his sister, Stephanie, who was having strange dreams as if she were not dreaming but living another life. The siblings start to search for information about the few things that Stephanie is able to recognise and that is when the story gets increasingly odd. Stephanie is living in the twentieth century but we are transported two hundred years back in time as well. There is a question of identity as well as elements of fantasy. The novel is written in a realist mode although the subject matter is both fantastic and bizarre. It is a gripping and unpredictable narrative which, like other Dedalus titles, challenges your usual reasoning.

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