In Grammars of Creation, George Steiner calls Ludwig Hohl (1904-1980) “one of the secret masters of twentieth-century German prose.” Written between 1934 and 1936 but not published until 1944, Die Notizen is Hohl’s magnum opus, comprising 832 pages of aphorisms, assertions, dreams, recollections and descriptions of daily life. The manuscript consisted of over 3000 slips of paper. The first volume of Die Notizen sold less than 200 copies, causing his publisher to cancel the second and final volume. So Hohl sued and won. Nevertheless, the second book sold just as poorly. In the 1970’s, after another publisher resurrected Hohl’s works, his unique accomplishments were finally recognized by writers such as Max Frisch, Peter Handke and Friedrich Dürrenmatt.
Hohl was born in Switzerland and spent his twenties in Paris, Vienna and The Hague. In 1937 he returned to Biel, then moved to Geneva where he lived penuriously for years in “a cellarage or below-street level cavern” until a small inheritance arrived in his later years. Alcoholic and stubbornly unemployable, he was married five times and had one daughter.
–excerpted from a review by Ron Slate, poet and corporate executive, of the novel ASCENT