The Impossible Proof

The Impossible Proof

Hans Erich Nossack

Language: English

Pages: 232


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

translated from German by Michael Lebeck

About the Author:
was born in 1901 in Hamburg. He studied law and philosophy
at the University of Jena; he then worked in a factory, as a
journalist, and later in his father’s import-export firm. In 1933,
with his first book nearing publication, the Nazis prohibited
him from publishing altogether, and in 1943 all his manuscripts
were burned during an air raid on Hamburg. Since the war he
has been publishing consistently: novels, stories, and plays.
In 1948 Jean-Paul Sartre called him “the most interesting
contemporary German writer,” and most of his works have
appeared in translation in France. Nossack won the Buchner
Prize in 1961 and recently held the chair for Poetics at the
Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. He is a member of
the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz, of the Free
Academy of Arts in Hamburg, and of the German Academy for
Languages and Letters in Darmstadt.

The Impossible Proof
Translated by Michael Lebeck
This extraordinary novel introduces
to American readers a mature novelist
whose European reputation is so high
—in Germany he is ranked with Kakfa,
Rilke, and Hesse, in France he is com­-
pared to Camus and Sartre—that it is
surprising that he should be virtually
unknown in America.
The Impossible Proof is a novel in
the form of a transcript of a murder
trial, a trial that a man conducts in his
mind during an insomniac night, as he
tries to come to terms with himself
and the apparent disappearance of his
wife. The judge joins the prosecution
in conducting the interrogation, and
though the defendant means to be
cooperative, he finds himself con­-
stantly misunderstood, constantly ar­-
guing with the Court. Yet through his
testimony the truth about his seven-
year marriage is gradually revealed.

Despite the outward trappings of
bourgeois respectability, his life has
in fact been a sham attended by the
constant fear of “the worst.” “Of
death?” the prosecutor asks, thinking
he has caught the defendant in an in­-
advertent admission. “No, of life,”
answers the accused.
As in all of Nossack’s work, the
basic themes of The Impossible Proof
are man’s excruciating awareness of
the provisional nature of existence,
and the necessity of courage in the
face of his ultimate aloneness. Writ­-
ten with absolute authority, this novel
reads like a nightmarish dream of un­-
surpassed purity and beauty














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