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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Love Virtually

Daniel Glattauer

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To purchase Love Virtually

Title: Love Virtually
Author: Daniel Glattauer
Genre: Novel
Written: 2006 (Eng. 2011)
Length: 223 pages
Original in: German
Availability: Love Virtually - US
Love Virtually - UK
Love Virtually - Canada
Love Virtually - India
Quand souffle le vent du nord - France
Gut gegen Nordwind - Deutschland
Le ho mai raccontato del vento del Nord - Italia
Contra el viento del norte - España
  • German title: Gut gegen Nordwind
  • Translated by Katharina Bielenberg and Jamie Bulloch

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Our Assessment:

B- : occasionally pulls the heartstrings, but is stilted and unrealistic,

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 7/11/2006 Oliver Jungen
The Guardian . 11/2/2011 Ian Sansom
NZZ . 17/12/2006 Andreas Isenschmid
Der Spiegel . 26/9/2006 Urs Jenny
TLS . 29/4/2011 Simon Beesley

  From the Reviews:
  • "Wem die nackte Empfindsamkeit als Pose oder Posse zusagt, dem ist mit Werthers echtem Original oder einer der zahllosen Abschattungen längst Genüge getan und nach Hegel ohnehin nicht mehr zu helfen. Wem hingegen das Medium als Botschaft am Herzen liegt, der greife weiterhin besser zu William Gibson oder Rainald Goetz. Nur wer einfach schön einschlafen möchte (und sei es bei Nordwind), dem kann Glattauers Doku-Flirt empfohlen werden." - Oliver Jungen, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "The end is as unexpected as it is inevitable. The book is translated from the German, but the whole thing is tout à fait." - Ian Sansom, The Guardian

  • "So geraten wir in eine minimalistische, fast stofffreie und doch jeden Augenblick quicklebendige Liebesgeschichte. Die Frühromantiker hätten an diesem Liebesballett ihre Freude gehabt, zweifach: Erstens durchleben die beiden alle Farben und Töne der guten alten romantischen Sehnsucht, die aufblüht, indem sie sich aufzehrt. Und zweitens tun sie es mit genau dem Witz, der den Romantikern so wichtig war. Kein schenkelklopferischer oder pointenversessener Witz, das wäre unseren Feingeistern zu simpel. Ihr Witz ist leicht, auch und gerade wenn es ihnen schwer ums Herz ist; er ist immer zugleich pfitzend und liebevoll, er geht um die Ecke; es ist der Witz zweier Liebender, die wissen, dass es zu den dauerhaften Belebungen der Liebe gehört, sich am Geist des anderen zu erfreuen." - Andreas Isenschmid, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "Ein Roman, der sich so strenge Kunstregeln gibt (sozusagen die Regeln eines verbalen Blinde-Kuh-Spiels) bleibt naturgemäß selbst etwas schmal und künstlich, also kaum atmosphärisch, kaum anschaulich, wo er ins Erzählen kommt, und schon gar nicht schwelgend oder üppig in seinen sprachlichen Mitteln. Nicht nahrhaft. Man muss bewundern, wie scheinbar mühelos und elegant Glattauer mit so wenig Futter seine erzählerische Gratwanderung schafft." - Urs Jenny, Der Spiegel

  • "What Glattauer has constructed is an ingenious tightly plotted suspense story. As with a thriller, there is pleasure to be had here in trying to predict the turn of events -- and having one's predictions confounded." - Simon Beesley, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Love Virtually is an e-epistolary novel, presented entirely in a back and forth of e-mails, almost all between two central characters who (practically) never physically meet. It begins with a mistake, as Emmi Rothner mis-types an e-mail address in her attempt to cancel her subscription to a magazine: writing "@leike.com" instead of "@like.com" she reaches Leo Leike who, after her third increasingly annoyed e-mail, replies to tell her about her mistake (apparently she's the third person to try to cancel her subscription at this wrong address ...). So, of course, they fall in love.
       Well, that's what it amounts to: a relationship develops, as they jokingly and then seriously e-mail back and forth, feeling one another out while also keeping their secrets. They know they live in the same city (the local magazine subscription reveals as much), but otherwise they carefully dose the information, enjoying their half-teasing, half-serious banter as they e-mail back and forth at irregular intervals -- sometimes in a quick flurry, sometimes with longer breaks (a pattern which continues for the duration). From relatively early on they are tempted to meet face-to-face, and that's a frequent topic of discussion; they manage just the once, arranging to meet-but-not-meet in a café, agreeing to both be there sometime during a two-hour period, to see if they can identify each other by sight; they do wind up 'seeing' each other, but remain pen-pals rather than taking further steps to get to know one another (though they write a lot about considering taking those steps).
       Matters are complicated by the fact that Emmi is married, as she eventually reveals, with two kids -- albeit his, from a former marriage. Leo just broke up with someone but over the course of their communications both his former girlfriend and a new woman also figure at least in the periphery -- which Emmi has trouble handling.
       Both seem to really take this relationship very seriously and become heavily invested in it, always eager -- even desperate -- to hear from one another; eventually Leo learns just how much of a role he has come to play in Emmi's life (and the toll it has taken on her family life). Things come to a head, momentous decisions are reached (and for about the tenth time too often, a momentous step is avoided at the last second), and, yes, the relationship remains purely virtual. Glattauer does round things off nicely enough -- smashing the door shut in the readers' faces, as it were -- but, alas, there's apparently a sequel to this thing (Alle sieben Wellen, to be published as Every Seventh Wave in English [spoiler alert: as you might expect, the review of the sequel does reveal more or less what happened here ...]).
       Love Virtually is an enormously frustrating read. There's a great deal of potential here, and some fundamentally sound ideas, but what Glattauer does with them is terribly disappointing. The lack of realism is already a problem -- beginning with the fact that the e-mail correspondence does not develop very convincingly. Leo is some sort of would-be academic -- a communications consultant/language psychologist (he would be, wouldn't he ?) who is, among other things, involved in a study on how e-mailing influences our language and how emotions are conveyed in e-mail (which covers the major aspects of the novel, filled with wordplay as it is, while the two characters wrestle with their feelings). The correspondence shifts between the kind that would nowadays be "texted" or "IMed" and longer epistles, but in its quick desperation and overreactions this is a pretty crude effort at presenting any sort of realistic back-and-forth.
       (Emmi and Leo are in their thirties, and the book was written way back in 2006, so perhaps the absence of any texting/SMSing is realistic -- but their writing styles throughout remain old-fashioned (no emoticons for these guys) and rather pedantic; in the German [this review is based on the German original; I haven't seen the English translation] they even continue to refer to each other in formal rather than familiar form (Sie rather than du, like the French vous and tu) until essentially the bitter end -- an effective signal of their need to maintain some emotional distance, but yet again strikingly old-fashioned).)
       Glattauer also plays too easily and loosely with his characters' emotions, tacking back and forth without sufficient character-development to support all this violent movement. In a novel where all that is presented is the e-mail correspondence -- i.e. what the characters want to reveal and share, leaving out the whole rest of their day(s) and lives -- it may be difficult to convey all that they are going through, but the roller-coaster ride Glattauer sends them on goes in a bit too much for wild careening about. Disappointingly, too, he eventually resorts to outside help -- another correspondent enters the fray, briefly -- to help 'explain' things (and it's never a good sign when a work of fiction requires such explanation).
       Fundamentally, this has the potential of being an interesting love story, but Glattauer can't make enough of his characters and what they are going through simply through these e-mails (and his tendency for overheated over-reaction just undermines whatever emotional resonance may build up elsewhere). The concept of such a virtual relationship is also an interesting one to explore, but not the way Glattauer does it here. Of course, 'virtual love' surely must, in the final analysis, be fundamentally unsatsifying, too, so in a way Glattauer has achieved a certain measure of success: except in its conclusion, Love Virtually certainly is unsatisfying.
       [Note, however, that Love Virtually has been a phenomenal (and multi-national) success, a bestseller that has been translated into dozens of languages. I have no idea what chord it is striking (or how it is doing so), but apparently it works for a lot of readers.]

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 February 2011

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Love Virtually: Reviews: Other books by Daniel Glattauer under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Austrian author Daniel Glattauer was born in 1960.

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© 2011-2021 the complete review

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