02 April 2018

Speed Review: Mr. Summer's Story

Mr. Summer's Story
Patrick Süskind
Knopf, 1993 translation by John E. Woods
German original "Die Geschichte von Herrn Sommer", 1991
116 pages

[Note to self: writing this review will NOT take longer than reading this short novella, 2 hours.]

I came upon "Mr. Summer's Story" in a roundabout way: in 2014 someone posted its entire 335-word opening sentence in a comment to a blog post, which I happened upon last week. That sentence piqued my interest and I ordered the book from my library.


This slim story - tale, allegory, fable - is a reminiscence told by a man about some incidents that happened to him when he was a little boy in a tiny rural village. He talks about his life at home, at school, and at the mean piano teacher's house, as well as his adventures with bikes and trees.

In the village lives a strange local man known only as Mr. Summer, who wanders the village and the countryside all day everyday, in weather good or bad. No one knows why, nor cares to find out. Several times over the years, the little boy briefly crosses paths with Mr. Summer. At the end, Mr. Summer disappears from the village. And that's basically the whole story. But as in all good tales, there are clues to partially piece together Mr. Summer's story, and the reasons that the narrator remembers him all these years later.

Patrick Süskind has penned a very charming tale, accompanied by pretty watercolor illustrations from Jean-Jaques Sempé, in a small gift-book format. In addition to the wonderful opening sentence, the book is nicely written, with good touches of small boy logic. And it leaves one with things to ponder, all of which I appreciated on yet another cold, wet, grey, pseudo-spring day.

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