The Fruit Thief: Or, One-Way Journey into the Interior

Farrar. Mar. 2022. 336p. tr. from German by Krishna Winston. ISBN 9780374906504. $28. F
Narrated by an elderly man who steps on a bee, this latest from Nobel laureate Handke (A Sorrow Beyond Dreams) takes readers on an intimate journey through the cities, towns, and rural expanses of north-central France. The incident compels the man to ruminate at great length on the insect’s life cycle, and he soon sets off from his home near Versailles to the Picardian highlands of the Vexin region. Along the way, he details his encounters with neighbors, townsfolk, and other travelers. The novel then shifts to his relating the adventures of the lovely young Alexia, the eponymous fruit thief. Walking from Paris to Picardy during three hot days in August, Alexia acquires traveling companions, saves a lost cat, spends a night in an almost abandoned hotel, and steals fruit and vegetables. Every experience here becomes part of Handke’s gorgeous, multilayered tapestry.
VERDICT Handke’s work was first published in 2017 in German, and this excellent English translation highlights the picaresque nature of the story. Alexia is an appealing vagabond as she moves from one episode to another, and Handke is a marvel at capturing and digging deeply into the history, sights, sounds, smells, and feel of France, which comes alive in his masterly hands.
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