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I exist, said the mirror.
What about me? said Kleinzeit.
Not my problem, said the mirror.
Kleinzeit, (p. 7)


Kleinzeit (1974)

A Novel by Russell Hoban



Kleinzeit is out of print in the US, but the new Bloomsbury trade paperback edition is available in the UK, and to the rest of the world via the Amazon UK Web site. Some used copies are generally available on the Bibliofind site. This book is one of the hardest to find in used bookshops, so for US readers I recommend buying it off the Web if you're looking to get your hands on a copy anytime soon.


Kleinzeit, Russell Hoban's second novel, is probably the funniest of his books (though The Medusa Frequency gives it a run for its money). It's a stylized, completely unpredictable story about a man in search of reality, armed only with a Glockenspiel and a copy of Thucydides' The Peloponnesian War. The story opens as our hero, Kleinzeit (whose name means "smalltime"), experiences a mysterious flash of pain in his hypotenuse. That morning he finds a clean sheet of yellow paper in the underground, gets sacked from his job as a copywriter and, despite good barometric pressure, is checked into hospital by his doctor. Hospital has been waiting for Kleinzeit; so has Sister, the kindly nurse who is about to become his link to sanity as he is existentially heckled by the voracious, sadistically witty institution known as Hospital, as well as the nonsensical doctors and ailments who put him there, a red-bearded man who drops sheets of blank yellow paper everywhere (which manage to embody all of the terror implicit in the creative process), and his own lack of a past.




"Hoban is an extremely talented novelist, an original mind in an era of mass-produced philosophers. Fortunately, Kleinzeit has sufficient plot to propel the reader through its pages. Otherwise the tempation to read and re-read each page individually would be too great to withstand."
--Irish Times

"Russell Hoban is as funny and unusual as any writer around, and this second novel confirms it. Its hero, Kleinzeit, is a sort of holy fool, a fierce, lonely intelligence desperately trying to make sense of a hopeless world. A tour de force."
--Evening Standard

"Masterly...a mosaic in which each tiny fragment of wit or dirt or profundity has its appointed place."
--The Times Literary Supplement

"Confirms the impression of outstanding talent made by his first novel, The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin Boaz...brimming with humanity and humour...brilliant handling of language."
--Glasgow Herald

"An original...a delight to read."
--Ion Trewin, The Times


'Why a barrow full of rocks?' said the creative director, ten years younger than Kleinzeit.
'Why not?' said Kleinzeit. He paused as the pain flashed from A to B. 'It's as good as anything else. It's better than a lot of things.' (p. 11)

Yes, said Hospital and became one infinite black mouth. Didn't even bother with teeth. Just an infinite black mouth, fetid breath. Kleinzeit backed into a mousehole. If the hole is this big the mice must be like oxen in here, he thought.
Tell you something, said the mouth.
Yes, tell me something, said Kleinzeit.
You may have flats and houses and streets and offices and secretaries and telephones and news every hour, said the mouth.
Yes, said Kleinzeit.
You may have industry and careers and television and Greenwich time signals, said the mouth.
Yes, said Kleinzeit. That's nice copy. That really sings.
You may even have several pushbuttons on your telephone and nothing but sheaves of ten-pound notes in your pocket and glide you may through traffic in a Silver Shadow Rolls-Royce, said the mouth.
It's building nicely, said Kleinzeit. But don't overbuild. Hit me with the payoff now, you know.
The mouth yawned. I forgot what I was going to say, it said.

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