Reviews

Fear – Dirk Kurbjuweit

“I had always believed my father capable of a massacre. Whenever I heard on the news that there had been a killing spree, I would hold my breath, unable to relax until it was clear that it couldn’t have been him.”

Randolph Tiefenthaler insists he had a normal childhood, though he grew up with a father who kept thirty loaded guns in the house. A modestly successful architect with a wonderful family and a beautiful home, he soon finds his life compromised when his father, a man Randolph loves yet has always feared, is imprisoned for murder.

Fear is the story of the twisted events leading up to his father’s incarceration. It begins when Randolph and his family move into a new building and meet their neighbor, Dieter Tiberius, the peculiar yet seemingly friendly man living in the basement apartment. As the Tiefenthalers settle into their home, they becoming increasingly disturbed as Dieter’s strange behavior turns malevolent. Randolph unravels the tale of Dieter’s harassment—the erotic letters he sends to Rebecca, his spying, his accusations of child abuse, the police reports he filed against them. Finally, Randolph admits his of own feelings of desperation and helplessness, which ultimately led to his father’s intervention.

As Randolph plumbs the depths of his own uncertainty surrounding the murder—pondering fundamental questions about masculinity, violence, and the rule of law—his reliability is slowly but irrevocably called into doubt. The result is an unsettling meditation on middle-class privilege and “civilised life” that builds to a shocking conclusion.

An acclaimed German writer makes his American debut with this gripping and sophisticated thriller reminiscent of The Dinner and the early novels of Ian McEwan, about the murder of a neighbour who had been harassing a middle-class family—and the relative imprisoned for the crime

My Review:  Fear is written by German Author Dirk Kurbjuweit and is loosely based on his own personal experience of being stalked by a neighbour, which makes this story all the more chilling.  The protagonist Randolph narrates the entire story beginning with the fact his elderly father has just shot and killed Randolph’s neighbour.

“Fear” then takes us on a journey through Randolph’s childhood and strained relationship with his father throughout his life, often over examining his memories and recollections and making the reader question Randolph’s version of his childhood.  Fear has been translated into English and therefore the language and prose makes the reader work that little bit harder, but nevertheless this is a chilling and terrifying account of being stalked in your own home and trying to protect your wife and young family when the authorities can’t help.

An uncomfortable, claustrophobic story that will send shivers down your spine and make you think how far you would go to protect the ones you love.

About The AuthorDirk Kurbjuweit is deputy editor-in-chief at Der Spiegel, where he has worked since 1999, and divides his time between Berlin and Hamburg. He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the Egon Erwin Kisch Prize for journalism, and is the author of seven critically acclaimed novels, many of which, including Fear, have been adapted for film, television and radio in Germany. Fear is the first of his works to be translated into English.

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