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1000 Coils of Fear by Olivia Wenzel: Is a novel the best format for this story?

Olivia Wenzel's novel explores Black identity across two continents, from the former East Germany to the early days of Trump's presidency

Berlin television tower

1000 Coils of Fear is set in contemporary Berlin Image: Camilla Bundgaard on Unsplash

Olivia Wenzel’s 1000 Coils of Fear first appeared in German in 2020. The book now comes to us through a translation by Priscilla Layne. A multi-narrative work of autofiction, the most overarching theme of Wenzel’s book is her experience of being Black in Berlin, contrasting it with her experience of being in the US during Trump’s election. 

This is told mostly through a strange self-interview style whereby Wenzel tries to convey her thoughts and memories through a question and answer format that is tiring and irksome. It feels as if she has just transcribed a monologue, or a slam poem, onto the page. It was unsurprising to me that the majority of Wenzel’s previous work has been in theatre. It makes me wonder if a novel was really the best format for this story.

1000 Coils of Fear by Olivia Wenzel

1000 Coils of Fear by Olivia Wenzel, translated by Priscilla Layne, is out now (Dialogue Books, £16.99). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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