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Review: A Certain Koslowski: The Director's Cut, by Michael Augustin

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The eponymous Koslowski is both hero and anti-hero: an everyman and a cipher into which the prejudices and contradictions of Western culture can be poured and turned over [...].
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There is much humour, and much that is ironic. For instance, Koslowski postpones his second suicide attempt when he hears of a neighbour whose own attempt caused such a serious accident, the neighbour died of the injuries.
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Augustin's Weltanschauung can be bleak - Koslowski concludes there could never have been a tree of knowledge otherwise 'those two people' would have hanged themselves from it ('A Revelation') - but there is much that is hilarious and even charming in its dotty logic, as when Koslowski gets on the wrong tram and finds he's utterly lost, which would be terrible if the tram driver wasn't lost and, in trying to find his proper route, goes to Koslowski's house ('Destiny').
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Although the scope of the collection is broad, Augustin often returns to questions of identity and existential doubt: Koslowski sends himself a reproachful letter, only for it to be returned as undeliverable - does Koslowski, therefore, not exist?
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Augustin, and Koslowski, remind us again and again that places, people and events are ambiguous and plastic: concrete and fixed only so long as we think they are and, at that, different for each observer.
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A delight throughout, this expanded edition of A Certain Koslowski, containing twenty-three more pieces than the original, comes with some wonderfully bizarre illustrations by Hartmut Eing. Augustin, a German writer and broadcaster originally from the city of Lübeck, has an extensive body of work in his native language and it's to Arc's credit that this new edition rejoins the small but valuable selection of his works in translation because, once again, our satisfaction with ubiquity of English risks us going ignorant of a sharp and provoking author.