Meeting characters such as a "pistol-packing" Charlie Chaplin along the way, a Swiss filmmaker travels to Japan to make a film meant to aggrandize Nazi Germany while secretly in cahoots with Jewish critics to make an allegorical film that will warn the world of the horrors of the Third Reich.
You don’t need to know classical Japanese theater for the unusual structure and tempo of The Dead to register, but Kracht decisively draws on Noh’s quirky structure—its tripartite form, with a meandering first part followed by a plot-quickening second and a swift resolution in the third. The novel is also inflected by its highly specific source history (especially the Mabuse-and-Murnau world of German cinema plumbed by Lotte Eisner and Siegfried Kracauer, both of whom are among the book’s significant characters) and its author’s penchant for meta-moments (the reader will eventually intuit that the text quite possibly coincides with a film titled The Dead) ... The Dead is marked by a deadpan archaizing style that in the original is frequently likened to a ventriloquized Thomas Mann ... The Dead is at times mildly and surprisingly humane ... The Dead shows the manifold ways that truism unites his characters’ sad sagas, as well as the medium that brings them back to life.
Framed by two highly aestheticized death scenes that balance precariously between real and unreal, the book is structured more by its images and digressions than by its nominal plot. Even the details snatched from history seem dreamlike ... for Kracht’s characters, even the merest nap can have a cinematic quality ... In Kracht’s novel, the politics of sleep are ambiguous, and everyone’s inner life (except perhaps Chaplin’s) involves a dreamy floating punctuated by bursts of real or imagined violence.
Swiss author Christian Kracht’s latest book, The Dead, is a slim volume that can suck the joy out of your afternoon, in an arthouse-movie kind of way. In fact, this is a book to read if you’re in the mood for a gloomy theater experience but don’t have the energy to get out of bed ... Despite the hope-starved characters, Kracht makes his book worth reading through the sheer strength of the writing. Credit must also be given to Daniel Bowles, who translated the book from the original German.