The Last Hunt

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

This novel describes the nature and circumstances of two reserved, detached, principled creatures and the forces that compel them to meet. One is Joop, head of foreign operations at a major German bank. The other is a large, old European brown bear.

Joop thinks of himself as a hunter—not a hunting hobbyist, the likes of which he disdains, but as a player, along with deer, chamois, and bears, in the drama of the wild. The bear, unlike other bears who have succumbed to environmental management by accepting the sumptuous bait set out for them, would rather settle from grubs he finds under rocks. Joop is a delegate to the World Bank, and it is his job to recommend or disapprove a loan to an Eastern European country for the development of its forested hinterlands. The bear lives in this forest.

The focus of the story alternates between Joop and the bear, shifting at times to an intermediary—Dushan, a rustic hunting guide— who arranges their meeting. The development of Joop’s complex character is well executed. Through him readers probe the philosophical nuances common to hunters, environmentalists, and developers. Readers are also invited to survey the magnitude of their own animal natures. The creation of the bear is exceptional. Through him, readers are drawn into a world where hunger and fear are the driving forces and where scent is the paramount source of information.

THE LAST HUNT is about ecology and economy, self-interest and public policy, passion and introspection. It is the second novel by German writer Horst Stern, better known for his television documentaries on environmental issues. While it can be considered a “message” piece, this work is nevertheless well-balanced and good literature.