‘Sorry’ by Croatian German author Zoran Drvenkar is a complex, multi-narrative assault on the senses.
The book follows four friends in Berlin, Kris, Wolf, Frauke and Tamara, as they struggle to make sense of their aimless, and often complicated, lives. Kris has just lost his job and his dreams of becoming of a journalist, Wolf is still coming to terms with the death of his drug addict girlfriend, Tamara is reeling from the emotional consequences of giving up her unwanted baby daughter and Frauke’s mother has been in an asylum for 14 years and counting. One drunken night, they decide to form an agency that apologises on behalf of other people, hence the title, ‘Sorry’.
One of their first cases includes apologising on behalf of a company that has dismissed a man found to have images of child pornography on his work computer. As it happens, the man is innocent. Needless to say, his life has been wrecked and the perpetrator is still at large, prompting the company (who are feeling extremely guilty) to apologise and offer a huge sum of money in order to recompense for their false accusation and appease their conscience.
The friends are soon living in the lap of luxury in a renovated villa on the shore of Berlin’s Wannsee and business is booming. However, the peace and relative tranquillity of their news lives is soon shattered. They receive an assignment from one Lars Meybach; upon following his instructions they find the corpse of a woman nailed to the wall in an abandoned apartment. Who is Lars Meybach, what does he want, and why do corpses keep turning up all over the place? The dead woman, Fanni, is eventually revealed to be part of a group of paedophiles being relentlessly pursued by the mysterious Meybach.
Suffice to say, the friends, drawn into this sticky web of personal revenge and dark desires, do not fare well.
Frauke dies in suspicious circumstances; Wolf is buried alive by Samuel, aging leader of the paedophile ring; Kris obsessively tracks the elusive Lars Meybach and Tamara eventually incapacitates Samuel and drives around with him trussed up in the boot of her car.
Despite the gruesome nature of ‘Sorry’, the book presents a wrenching account of the devastating effects of childhood sexual abuse. Themes of guilt and abuse are intricately woven to produce a compelling tale of revenge; albeit one where no-one appears to get their happy ending. Such a premise runs the risk of being overtly sensational but ‘Sorry’ deftly handles the sensitive subject matter whilst maintaining an almost objective stance to the events that play out throughout the book. The multi-narrative approach gives essential insight into the minds of the characters, yet it almost serves to keep the reader at arm’s length; thus the objectivity of the narration allows the reader to draw their own conclusions at the devastating events that unfold.
‘Sorry’ is a dark one, not for the faint-hearted, but it is definately a page-turner and well worth a few hours of your time (you won’t be able to put it down, anyway!).
‘Sorry’ was translated by Shaun Whiteside