... resembles a German free-market ideologue’s High Fidelity ... Composed in wry, long sentences agreeably translated from the German by Tess Lewis, “Kraft” serves up a digestible treatise on Europe’s economic and political history of the last few decades, with the laissez-faire duo of Kraft and Istvan as cartoonish vessels for their author’s findings. It’s also an amusing study in how intellectuals become neutered and co-opted through venal self-interest. The scene in which Kraft finally writes a lecture to suit the benefactor’s facile prejudices is a finely handled, comic dramatization of the microcompromises, stifled shame and bad-faith gymnastics of sham writers who tell the Culture whatever it wants to hear ... The novel’s broad satirical strokes limit its emotional heft, and a too-tidy ending fails to convince. But Lüscher is a perceptive commentator on Silicon Valley’s heady and hubristic ideological climate ... Lüscher sniffs out the fraudulence in the very roots of his characters’ political stances.
... very much an introspective novel ... Lüscher's portrait of Kraft, built up in awkward and uncomfortable scenes from the past and present, -- Kraft really is a sad sack -- is quite well done, if perhaps a bit heavy on the pathetic-comic (very, very little goes right for Kraft). It is very much centered on Kraft, with his relationships with the women in his life somewhat underdeveloped, at least from their side; if not exactly flat, they (and their reasons for sticking it out with Kraft) remain rather mysterious ... Lüscher works quite well with underlying themes and concepts, which he has bobbing up across the novel and across Kraft's life, from the essay-subject to neat, small echoes ... It's no great surprise for whom the bell tolls in the end -- though it's arguably a too neat and easy conclusion, very much a novel-conclusion. Still, as a way not to win the essay-competition and as a response to the set question it certainly makes a point ... The hapless-comic can get to be a bit much, but the emotional distance of the voice and lack of any sentiment does help make that more palatable ... Kraft does remain something of a cipher -- besides being an odd duck --, too-little tied into the everyday for the critique of the picture of contemporary society Lüscher is clearly also trying to present to really sit ... a polished piece of work -- but that's not entirely a good thing: as all the running themes and imagery and practically everything else suggest, this is a very deliberately and carefully structured fiction -- a bit too obviously so. An ideal book-club or classroom text, but not necessarily quite as satisfying simply as such. But there's certainly enough to it to make for an intriguing and quite entertaining read, making for a reasonably successful work.
Some books are a hard sell. Some are well nigh impossible to recommend. And then there’s Jonas Lüscher’s Kraft. It’s an exceedingly cerebral comic novel about Leibnizian optimism translated from the German ... This is the kind of review in which I have to say things like Kraft is the best novel about theodicy I’ve read all year! ... the perspective is foreign, but the setting familiar ... Writer’s block is painful to endure, harder to write about and even harder to read about. But anyone who’s stared at a blank screen while an important deadline creeps closer will laugh nervously at Kraft’s plight ... Lüscher’s style, a hybrid of intellectual posturing and absurd slapstick, is sharply translated by Tess Lewis, who captures Kraft’s pomposity and the indefatigable march of German syntax ... this peculiar book is not for everyone. The philosophical allusions present a hurdle. But a greater one may be the references to late-20th-century European politics, which will challenge American readers who can’t quickly distinguish the economic policies of Helmut Kohl and Helmut Schmidt...Indeed, as much as I enjoyed Kraft, it sometimes felt like the humor was taking place in an adjacent room that excluded me ... But for all its intellectual scaffolding, “Kraft” is essentially the story of a man realizing what a jerk he’s been. Whether that’s a comedy or a tragedy is the abiding suspense of this plot. I’m not optimistic that Lüscher’s satire of neoliberalism will attract a large audience in America, but if Kraft finds the right readers, the laughter will trickle down, right?