Albert Bonniers förlag, 2006. ISBN: 9100108332
Reviewed by Henning Koch in SBR 2006:2
Oneirine is an assured first novel with a strong sense of literary heritage and style. From the very first line, a curiously resonant “It is not wholly inconceivable that at some point in our lives we may get to spend some time at the Hotel Abulafia”, we are introduced to the notion that the individual may not be quite as particular or indeed unique as we might like to think. Perhaps human life is little more than a palimpsest over other lives past and present? Kastner opens his novel in a malfunctioning elevator, where the narrator and his companion (an underwear salesman) stand waiting, plunged in darkness.The elevator seems analogous to the layers of life and time we move between in our human form. When the door finally opens, it reveals the faded, filthy, transitory world of Hotel Abufalia. In fact, this seems another reference to the flawed reality we all inhabit (often against our will). Hotel Abufalia is a “magnet for lost souls...” Yet, as the narrator puts it, there is nothing objective about his experience of being alive: “All the time I feel I have someone else’s existence, I have someone else’s feelings and their thoughts. And I sense I have been someone else... as if my personality had slowly become an imaginary meeting point for the impersonal, a refuse tip for anonymous bric-a-brac.” Kastner goes on to sketch the various aspects of his narrator’s humdrum existence: his unloved girlfriend Dolores to whom he is bound by weakness and loneliness.Then, the gallery of residents of the Hotel Abufalia: Bruno Filmer, the aforementioned salesman, waiting for his wife to arrive, always speaking in glowing tones about his love for her. Then, Lenz, the medical student, obsessing about his imminent suicide. And Hanemann, immersed in his obscure study of the unknown writer Hugo Vernier who (at least according to Hanemann's deranged thinking) has been plagiarized by a long list of greats including Verlaine, Mallarmé and Rimbaud. The narrator dreams continuously of Oneirine – his true love – and the whole meaning of his life seems encapsulated in her even though at times it is unclear whether he has even met her. If so, was it in this life or another? Yet he becomes more purposeful once he concludes that his Oneirine is, in fact, one and the same as the absent wife of Bruno Filmer. She is expected within a week and her husband is eagerly anticipating her return.The narrator makes sure that Bruno drinks excessively the night before her arrival on the morning train, then goes to meet her in his place. The novel ends as he waits in vain for her to step off the train. Oneirine is an experimental novel rooted in the tradition of Perec, Borges, Gombrovicz and Thomas Pynchon. On its publication it caused uproar when it was discovered that several passages had been plagiarized from Perec. The writer defended himself by commenting that this was very much in the spirit of the piece. Irrespective of any plagiarism, this is a wholly original effort from a writer with a sure sense of style and indebtedness to a European literary heritage, and for these reasons well worth a read.