Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


Spitzen-on-the-Dien. Imaginary German village in which the new Germany is to be born. The novel opens and closes in 1945 in Allied-occupied Germany with a first-person, neo-Nazi narrator, Zizendorf, declaring that the town is an idyllic place. Ensuing descriptions, however, are anything but idyllic. The season is winter, and a thick fog hovers over everything. The town’s architecture has been destroyed—broken mortar and bricks are strewn about, walls are pock-marked and smashed, and buildings teeter at precarious angles. Supporting beams are charred, and a sense of permanence has given way to instability. In fact, the very earth has been scorched and rendered unproductive.

Fires burn along the town’s curbs, and excrement pits smolder and send noxious gases through the air. Wells have been poisoned, and the nearby canal is thoroughly polluted and odious. Carcasses of animals and flimsy tar-paper shacks dot the landscape. Banners, which once celebrated warriors marching off to victory, now lie in mud, and a few of those same soldiers, now ragged and defeated, trudge home with venereal disease. All the citizens are clothed in drab gray, and the prevailing imagery suggests feebleness and sterility.

Most inhabitants stay indoors, but those who are active suggest a society of cruelty and destructiveness. Two parallel plots unravel in the night. In the one Zizendorf and three accomplices string wire across a road to snare the motorcycle-bound Leevey, a lone Jewish American soldier in charge of a third of Germany’s territory. In killing this overseer, Zizendorf believes he is inaugurating a new, invigorated Germany, free of oppression. At the same time, a figure named...

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(Great Characters in Literature)

Berry, Eliot. A Poetry of Force and Darkness: The Fiction of John Hawkes. San Bernardino, Calif.: R. Reginald, the Borgo Press, 1979. Discusses the link between historical time and the unconscious in The Cannibal and finds repression the link between the sexual and the political in the novel.

Busch, Frederick. Hawkes: A Guide to His Fictions. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1973. Presents a close analysis of the novels. Discusses Hawkes’s style and social concern in The Cannibal. Also discusses animal imagery in relation to the theme of sterility and hopelessness.

Greiner, Donald J. Comic Terror: The Novels of John Hawkes. Memphis, Tenn.: Memphis State University Press, 1973. Analyzes Hawkes’s comedy in terms of “black humor” and discusses his use of poetic techniques and concern for structural coherence.

Kuehl, John. John Hawkes and the Craft of Conflict. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1975. Discusses the tension between Eros and Thanatos in Hawkes’s novels in relation to setting, myth, structure, characterization, and narrative focus. Also analyzes Hawkes’s use of characters to represent ideas.

Reutlinger, D. P. “The Cannibal: The Reality of Victim.” Critique 6, no. 2 (Fall, 1963): 30-37. Sees the characters as victims of romantic politics and discusses Hawkes’s antirealistic art as a way of evoking sympathy through intellectual apprehension of horror.