C. is a wretched grump, an anguished patron of bars, brothels, and train stations. He is also an acclaimed East German writer. Dogged by writer’s block, remorse, and national guilt in the years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, he leaves the monochromatic existence of the GDR for the neon excess of the West.
... translated into supple, vivid English ... Hilbig has a weakness for what might be called the secretionary Gothic ... C. can be entertaining when he seems to be playing up his mopey self as a clown, but the tale circles and circles, like a drunk’s conversation, and a reader sometimes feels a little cornered by it. It can’t be easy for a writer to recognize that his sensibility was shaped irrevocably by a world that was deeply compromised and is no longer relevant, though it has to be said that this is more or less the plight of any writer who has had the misfortune of surviving his youth.
Our 'hero' takes us on many liquor-fueled Mobius Teacup Rides between East and West Germany, keeping the limbo bench warm on the sidelines of love and lust, looking for someone, something, or some country to blame for his writer’s block, impotence, and irresponsibility. Told in such a comedic, controlled scatter to keep the reader comfortably teetered on a seat’s edge, if sitting’s a thing said reader’s into.
C.’s 'depressive inertia' generates a recursive tale, pivoting between drink, aimless travel, and abandonments. But in one sense, The Interim really isn’t about C. at all—but rather about the underlying psyche telling this story, a mind absorbed by—and in the grip of—the grim and grimy details of C.’s peripatetic days ... The triumph of The Interim is found in its loyalty to this dire perception—and in its contradiction: the insistence on the value of self-expression, however tormented, in a mendacious world.