Beware of false prophets. Especially ones who are obsessed with melancholy. And are kind of a megalomaniac. And are consuming massive amounts of cocaine. And who has decided to mount an expedition up the Rio de la Plata in Uruguay. Unfortunately for the nameless narrator in Mark Haber’s Reinhardt’s Garden, no one told him to be wary of any of these things.
The narrator of this novella met Jacov Reinhardt at a tuberculosis sanatorium. The narrator is a hypochondriac and more than a little suggestible, so he immediately falls under the spell of the completely absurd Jacov. Because the narrator has no apparent sense of irony, he faithfully transcribes Jacov’s pompous musing about melancholy, his rivalries, and all the rest of his master’s nonsense without commentary. Readers who are savvier than the narrator (and who on earth isn’t?) can clearly see what the narrator is missing: the fact that Jacov is more full of shit than a Christmas goose.
Readers who enjoy intellectual absurdity will enjoy Reinhardt’s Garden. Interested readers should be prepared for the experience of falling into a fevered (maybe, he is a hypochondriac) man’s memories told out of order in one long paragraph. When I realized that this book really was an 168-page long paragraph, I considered giving up on this book because I found the literary gimmick mildly annoying on principle. Still, it made me chuckle enough that I kept going, just to see how far Jacov would go into his bizarre, cocaine-fueled obsessions—and how far the narrator would follow him. I just had to know if the narrator would ever wise up. And if you’d like to know if he does, you’ll need to read this delirious tale yourself.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss for review consideration.