In a Dark Wood

Written by Marcel Möring Shaun Whiteside (trans.)
Review by Patricia O’Sullivan

“The heart of the heart. The midst of the battle. Midway through our lives, when we find ourselves in a dark wood. In the shit. That’s where we are now.” Readers who enjoy modern writers like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Milan Kundera will enjoy Marcel Möring’s haunting prose about the emptiness and guilt felt by Jacob Noah, a Holocaust survivor led on a strange journey by “the Jew of Assen” and Marcus Kolpa, a young man full of promise who drifts unmoored in post-war Holland. Set in the prosperous and willfully ahistorical Dutch town of Assen, In a Dark Wood reads like a stream of consciousness with a plot, tying together vignettes in the lives of its characters, all trying to find meaning in a world in which tragedy has stripped it away. Shaun Whiteside’s translation captures the beauty of Möring’s writing with his philosophical descriptions of life in Assen and his characters’ dream-like recollections of the war. This is not an easy read, but it’s worth the effort.