Review: “Sein Und Werden” by Various Authors

Sein Und Werden

So, this is the final issue of the indie magazine, Sein und Werden. And it’s going out with something more like an explosion of highly toxic materials than a bang–and not a whimper in sight. Each issue of this magazine has been in some way a unique object with some home-made aspect to its construction. This issue has been painstakingly cut and pasted (yes, with scissors and glue, folks!) into a spiral bound notebook–it’s a truly lovely little object, decorated with some neat little geometrical studies by Tray Drumhann and Andrew Abbot.

So what of the fiction and poetry inside?

“Hufhaus” by Derek John, sandwiches the collection. Written in two parts, it’s a study of voyeurism and high versus low culture. A group of teenagers spy on the occupant of an arty house made of glass. It’s hilarious, gratingly true-to-life and with a raw energy. I loved it.

Mark Vincenz’s poem “Building a Japanese Butterfly” is a perfectly constructed miniature cogitation leading into Phil Doran’s “Staatliches Express”, a delightful, slightly potty story in which an aging Bela Lugosi tries to enrol in the Staatliches Bauhaus, leaving the director, Gropius, rather non-plussed in interview with an entrant who lies on the floor uttering such non-sequiturs as: “Existence is highly contingent for the commercially undead.”

Ellaraine Lockie’s exquisite dissection of literary tastes, “Bookworm” slots neatly into the gap before Marc Lowe’s rather wonderful, if inconclusive, ramble around the fantastic city of Beaujardin. In “Excerpted from a Tour of Beaujardin” we travel with a guide who seems like a cross between Conan Doyle and the Brothers Quay. There are copious references to a civilisation existing in a state of anarchy and suppression but our guide is too busy to linger long.

“A Conversation Between My Father and His Uncle, Regarding the Appropriate Use of a Block Plane” by Thane Thompson is one of the shortest stories in the volume but packs quite a punch. It begins in didactic mode but there is clearly something sinister beneath the skin of this woodwork lesson. Stephen Muret’s “The Cold River Boy” is a metaphor disguised as a fable or vice versa. With a tendency to long-windedness it strives towards a grand theme but it’s the intricate fantasy setting the author creates which works best.

“Code Name Vorkurs”, a prose poem by John Allen, touches on the closure of the Bauhaus by the Nazis and an abortive assassination attempt on Hitler–a tiny and penetrating history lesson which precedes: “A Few Leaves from the Travelogue of Doctor Julius Jonsson, Cryptobotanist and Hylesoprotolist: Bay Ridge, or, the Belief in the Undead Still Exists in New York” by Erik T. Johnson–another extract from something longer. It seems to be set in a weird composite future. The eponymous hero arrives in town on horseback in search of botanical specimens but finds himself caught up in a vampire hunt outside a shopping mart, in the course of which he becomes the hunted. It’s a chaotic romp of a story with not so much as a Bauhaus teapot in sight but breathlessly entertaining nonetheless.

“Dimensions of an Interior” by Martin Heavisides is an enigmatic description a room, executed with forensic thoroughness–another story which hints at events tantalisingly outside the narrative frame. “In Memory of Dad” by Willie Smith is one of the stories I wish were longer but, that said, it fills its three minuscule panels with admirable skill. The title says it all but the writing is funny, sharp and compelling.

Finally, we reach the conclusion of “Hufhaus”, Derek John’s two part clash of cultures. A change of perspective reveals the interior of the glass house and the bleak world of a celebrity art entrepreneur. Superbly written: you’ll have to read the story for yourself to discover what “BOMBFUCK” is but I swear it’ll be worth the money.

This is a bravura performance by a talented bunch of writers and edited and handmade by the scarily creative imagination of Rachel Kendall. Beg, borrow or preferably buy a copy of this last issue of Sein und Werden but hands off my copy, I’m keeping it for posterity and the whiff of glue.

A copy of Sein und Werden is available from kissthewitch.co.uk.

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Nick Jackson is a writer from Norwich.