“Keep your right hand loose and strong,” he said.
It took me a moment to realize that he was still talking about archery.
“Sure”, I said laughing, “and when it´s loose and strong, what then?”
“Then try to become like your right hand.”
On one level, Günther Bach’s “The Horn of the Hare” is a mystery of disappearance. When the narrator comes for his accustomed summer visit to his archery teacher, the near-recluse’s cottage on an island off East Germany’s Baltic Coast is unchanged, but deserted. Will the man who, almost unwillingly, inspired the visitor to take up archery return? Is he the victim of foul play? If he has left voluntarily, why and whither? Has he left a message for his student?
But this is no breathless “action thriller”. On the contrary, the novel demands an unhurried reader – and in so doing, imparts one of the archery teacher’s central principles. The narrator’s examination of the contents of the cottage is worthy of a detective; his recollection of his teacher’s words and actions suggests a motivation and the solution of the puzzle, but more importantly for the reader, it is a review of the apprenticeship.
In passing, the novel is also a thumbnail sketch of a society explicitly devoted to so embedding a person in collectives that the self disappears – under the slogan “moving from I to we”. Do mastery and a worthy life depend on society’s recognition and reward? Pupil and teacher take part in and then abandon the state-organized archery clubs and tournaments. For the teacher, these are not merely irrelevant, but contrary to his aim. For this book is also the story of an individual who, without overt rebellion, takes the other direction, centering himself and exploring his abilities for their own sake – until here, too, the self disappears, in another way.
Learning how to let go is the key to more than shooting an arrow.
978-3980874373, 166 pages