Dark Satellites by Clemens Meyer

Clemens Meyer's latest collection of short stories explores those on the fringes of German society

Book Review by Eugenie Johnson | 20 Jan 2020
  • Dark Satellites by Clemens Meyer
Book title: Dark Satellites
Author: Clemens Meyer (trans. Katy Derbyshire)

German writer Clemens Meyer is no stranger to writing about those on the fringes. In his era-spanning, Man Booker International Prize-longlisted novel Bricks and Mortar, he examined the sex trade in a big city in former East Germany. In his latest collection of short stories, Dark Satellites, which has been translated by Katy Derbyshire, Meyer places focus on a series of characters and narratives in contemporary Germany that might not usually be in the spotlight.

Whether it’s a train driver struggling to come to terms with running over a laughing man, a roaming man unable to return to his flat after a break-in or a guard patrolling outside a home for immigrants who falls in love with a refugee, Meyer’s collection of characters and narratives are imbued with a sense of humanity without ever tipping over into sentimentality. The Beach Railway’s Last Run, in which an old man reminisces about a particular incident during his youth, feels particularly poignant.

Despite the evocative passages though, Meyer’s prose, which borders on stream of consciousness with its liberal use of commas and meandering sentences, can sometimes upend the emotion buried within by leaving the reader little room to breathe and reflect on what is taking place. Settle into its style and pace though and Dark Satellites gradually discloses its own sense of beauty in these seemingly small yet revealing stories. 

Fitzcarraldo Editions, 20 Jan, £12.99