Extract from Michael Mitchell's translation

Herbert Rosendorfer: Grand Solo for Anton

Once the barking had receded into the distance, Anton L. cautiously continued on his way. However terrifying the sight of the raging dogs, presumably half-starved, who had turned back into the beasts they had originally been, Anton L. was grateful for having had the chance to witness the cruel spectacle since it served as a warning. It was a warning he was to recall very soon.

There was a car by one of the advertising pillars between the bridge and the city centre. It had obviously crashed at full speed into it. There was no one in the car. A dinner jacket was dangling over the driver's seat and on the passenger's seat was a gossamer-thin sheath of some emerald-green material.

‘If that was a dress,’ thought Anton L., ‘I'm sorry I never met the lady.’ On the floor of the car were two pairs of shoes, men's on the left, ladies' on the right (also emerald-green).

Anton L. had to overcome an inhibition barrier before he could bring himself to fully open the door that had been forced ajar by the collision. He had the feeling the clothes were corpses.

‘Nonsense,’ he thought. They didn't smell; that is, the gossamer sheath smelt of a delicate perfume. ‘Diorissimo,’ thought Anton L. He had a sensitive nose and for a while Dagmar had used Diorissimo.

He took out the dinner jacket. The shirt was inside, the vest inside that.

‘Just as he was wearing it,’ thought Anton L. He put it back in the car. A small roll of paper fell out of the waistcoat pocket: two hundred-mark notes. Anton L. stuck them back in the pocket. He picked up the emerald-green sheath: delicate textiles fell out: a pair of tights with a slight shimmer of gold, very thin, black lingerie with floral decoration.

‘Pity I never met the lady,’ thought Anton L. again. There was a thick gold necklace on the seat … Anton L. put his hand inside the emerald sheath. The fabric glittered. The colour of his hand could be clearly seen through the fabric. ‘I can just picture it,’ he thought. He stretched the fabric. The scent of Diorissimo grew stronger for a moment. ‘It wouldn't have fitted Dagmar. She wasn't what you'd call slim. I wonder if she too … if she'd still be here if we'd got married?’

Anton L. held the glittering, transparent fabric in his hand, almost put it in his pocket, but then threw it back into the wrecked car. The dress curled up on the seat like a snakeskin.

‘Snakes!’ thought Anton L. He had such a horror of snakes he could not even look at pictures of them in the encyclopaedia. ‘I hope snakes don't start appearing as well.’ He regretted not having brought the Hommers' kitchen cleaver with him, although the idea of coming close enough to a snake to chop it up almost made him sick.

It was not a snake that Anton L. was to encounter. On his way into town he came across a few cars that were not properly parked at the side of the street. In Medea Strasse there was one in the middle of the road. A little further on, just in front of the window of a shop selling basketware, there was a police patrol car. Both had their lights still on, although they were very faint. At one time — under what he later called the Dagmar's petty-bourgeois influence — he had taken driving lessons. He had never passed his driving test (not surprisingly his engagement with Dagmar had been broken off, though that had nothing to do with her insistence on him taking driving lessons), but he remembered the basics of how to drive. He walked round the first car and looked in. There was a grey suit on the seat.

‘The couple had probably been to the theatre and then gone on to a bar,’ he thought, ‘but what was this chap doing driving round in the middle of the night?’ With some difficulty — it took several tries — he managed to open the boot. In it was a spare can of petrol, a spade, a bundle of straps and a tennis racket. Anton L. closed the lid. Unmoved now, and with his habitual contempt for almost all other people, especially those he did not know, he threw the grey suit and any underwear in it, on the street. Then he got into the driver's seat. The key was in the ignition. He tried to start the car. The engine gave one sluggish turn then died.

‘The driver must have dematerialised while he was driving …