Other People Exist
A collection of short stories
The metamorphoses of the characters [in Blecher’s book] into someone different from themselves are not, as in classical literature, a result of their own volitional efforts, of goals defined and achieved, but, similar to the work of Kafka, a master of metamorphoses, they happen without being desired—like natural phenomena such as rain and earthquakes. This is how things happen in my favorite tale, the fantasy-allegory “A Shoe Like Any Other.” There, the characters realize without wanting to that they must leave the shoe and the old woman who takes care of them, that their childhood is at an end.
…In Blecher’s book, the transformation of character, no matter how radical, takes place naturally. The lack of exaggeration and the prevalence of a gentle irony brings the book close to Chekhov, who figures highly in one of the stories… Except that Chekhov is terribly unerotic whereas in Blecher’s work, sex—like all the other crucial events—just happens in a natural way, which is what makes it beautiful: admiration of beauty, like memorable sex, is involuntary.
--Maurice Fadel, Literaturen Vestnick (Sofia, Bulgaria)
EXCERPTS FROM REVIEWS OF OTHER PEOPLE EXIST
George Blecher, author of the collection of short stories Other People Exist, always has his micro/telescope at hand, impertinently peering into the inner workings of human beings. He spots an object of interest and stalks him/her, taking note of every detail while at the same time noticing the people around who are affected by the situation. He doesn’t see human beings as individuals unconnected to others, but rather as creatures who carry the context of their lives around with them.
I don’t know if the author has any experience with psychotherapy or psychological theory, but his insight into human behavior is amazing, and is supported possibly by a strong psychotherapeutic gift.
The stories are complex but not chaotic, the narration slow and gradual, but never boring. We enter the personal and familial systems carefully, inconspicuously and discreetly... Blecher is a sensitive story-teller, and a sharp and forthright critic of American society. He doesn’t so much tell us who we can be as who we are, with our fears, obsessions, changing moods, anger and fantasies that we aren’t always conscious of.
--Petra Lichtenstein, Benik Referendum (Prague)
Blecher’s short stories don’t lead to easy conclusions. The reader accompanies his characters along a single stage of their journeys, then leaves them. There are no happy endings, and no absolute solutions. The reader meets the characters, listens to their stories, comes to know their circumstances, and only then can put the stories into a broader context. Every character is in the midst of speaking, and we’re just passing by—much as in life, when one overhears a snatch of dialogue or fragment of a story in the street or on the train. Nevertheless, the situations that emerge in these stories are three-dimensional and theatrical—though a kind of theater that doesn’t take place on an open stage but behind a closed curtain and in hidden corners. The characters are diverse—they include a Korean girl and a Ghanaian poet, people of different skin color and social standing—but their “otherness” doesn’t come from their backgrounds as much as from the fact that they’re peculiarly self-centered, yet can’t resist the urge to speak... They act sincerely; and if they overact a little, we can forgive them just as we forgive a good actor for having a bit too much greasepaint on his face.
--Milena M. Maresova, Plav (Prague)
Blecher’s group of stories deals with the problematic barrier between the Self and Other, a barrier whose energy-dynamic in Blecher’s view is often of an erotic nature, ranging from normal sex to diverse forms of sublimated libido. Blecher’s New York intellectual background --with Freud’s constant presence—stands him in good stead.
In the collection are stories about families damaged by divorce, “difficult” youngsters, people with phobias, parallels between fables about Hindu Gods and life on the Upper West Side—as well as a mischievous retelling of the story of the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe.
Blecher’s stories deal with difficult human relationships, many of which in the end are doomed to failure. These stories demand the reader’s attention, not least because they encompass a wide range of styles and structure. When one reads them together, however, one finds many threads of connection, which quite satisfyingly tie the diversity of the book together.
Other People Exist meets its own high expectations, and should do well in the large English-speaking market.
--Lars Ole Sauerberg, Jyllands-Posten (Copenhagen/Aarhus)
George Blecher is a highly skilled writer and translator from Scandinavian languages, who is making his debut as a fiction writer with the story collection, Other People Exist. He examines the destinies of his American characters in a series of very diverse stories, which range from the large events of life—the book opens with the sentence, “When I split up our family, my daughter fled”—to more indirect, everyday observations about everything from cigarettes to apartments. This allows Blecher to create a good blend of a kind of charming longing for the events of quotidian life and wonder at the large connections behind them. If they exist.
Blecher works in a very interesting way with the form of the short story. “Possible Causes of Premature Death,” for instance, unites different stories under more or less ironic titles like “The End of the World” and “Destructive Actions: Continued.” The title story also takes disparate stories and temperaments and groups them under the theme of “The Other” and the various modes of distancing between people. Just as a short story collection is built around different voices, these stories gain strength from putting a variety of voices together within the boundaries of a single text.
Blecher writes well, with a good mix of humor and melancholy. He is at his best—as he is most often-- when he lets his reflections about American life flow out of the descriptions of concrete situations.
--Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, Kristeligt Dagblad (Copenhagen)
At times George Blecher is whimsical, at others iridescent; he is always brimming with life and movement-- insolent, passionate, enthusiastic, ambitious, egotistical and engaged. He doesn’t pull his punches and is not ashamed of undressing before the reader; he opens his heart fully and holds no reserves when delving into the feelings of his characters. After the solemnity of Turkish stories, these extreme, out-of the-ordinary stories are a pleasure to read.
When writers like George Blecher take snapshots of the most complex metropolitan lives in their countries, we realize that westerners have wishes, ordeals, deprivations and conflicts just as we do; they are not the wealthy, carefree, agreeable tourists we see on our streets. We recognize the similarities between us. A tragicomic moment of an earthquake during an audition is eerily similar to what we might experience here, don’t you think?
--Hikmet Temel Akarsu, Birgun (Istanbul)
The process of writing OTHER PEOPLE EXIST: video for Host, Czech publishing company.
"Famous Writers I May or May Not Have Met": talk at Brno Literary Festival, Brno Czech Republic 2010.