review of Alexander Kluge and Gerhard Richter's book Dispatches from Moments of Calm

He was in control of the situation but not in control of his imagination.

This is a pairing of flash fiction (by Kluge) and sometimes-related photography (by Richter). Between the gap in our ages (Kluge and Richter were both over 80 when this book was published), our differing nationalities, and the fact that he's evidently really into opera, the author and I likely have very different sets of background knowledge about the world. I think that's why I frequently didn't know whether I was reading fiction or fact. Some of the stories are about real people and events - opera singer Leonard Warren really did die on stage, for example.

The title reflects the photography more than the stories. Some of the stories are soothing descriptions of idle scenes, as you might expect: the random protrusions of a tree stump are compared to an alien city; the nature of photography is contemplated ("The instant of time that the photo wins from the intractable flow of reality is shorter than the blinking of an eye..."); a dog sleeps contentedly, a toddler plays safely under the careful eye of his parents. Others are not so calm. One minute you're reading about reproductively-frustrated pigeons; the next, about a man accidentally killing himself in the act of proposing marriage. A sick woman experiences a moment of false hope before death; a doctor and a nun discuss the inconsolability of a woman whose baby has died; a family faces the duty to put down their injured dog ("The dense emotional field which filled the room, and which the doctor was trying to steer towards a decision, remained immobile.")

I wasn't expecting to love this — and as expected, overall, I didn't. But there are some memorable passages and it increased my (previously very low) estimation of how enjoyable extremely short fiction can be.