Zündels Abgang

Zündels Abgang

infobox Book |
name = Zündel’s Departure
title_orig = Zündels Abgang
translator =

image_caption =
author = Markus Werner
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = Switzerland
language =
series =
genre = Novel
publisher =
release_date = 1984
english_release_date =
media_type =
pages =
isbn =
preceded_by =
followed_by =

Zündels Abgang ("Zündel’s Departure") is the first novel of Swiss writer Markus Werner (1944 in Eschlikon), that was published in 1984 and became a bestseller and enjoys the status of cult novel for a lot of readers.

Plot summary

From diary-style notes and personal memories and conversations, the fictive narrator Reverend Busch reconstructs and documents the stepwise "fall" of his missing friend, the teacher Konrad Zündel. During many summer weeks, the life of the depressive, intellectual, quixotic protagonist is destroyed step by step. In the reader’s eyes, Zündel simply suffers one mishap after another, but for the unstable teacher - that says, he never was happy in his life - these mishaps lead into mania and into the planning and execution of his "departure".

Konrad Zündel and his wife Magda, whose relationship after five years breaks down because of everyday things, decide to spend their Holidays separately. While Magda spends some days with her friend Helen, Konrad decides to visit Greece. But in Italy, he suddenly loses an incisor and travels back to Switzerland per train. While travelling, his wallet gets stolen and he, into the bargain, finds a severed finger on the train closet. This severed finger’s origins and meaning never are explained. In his Swiss flat, the caretaker denotes, Magda did something with another man. Later, this statement turns out to be a lie – but the thought of losing his wife throws Zündel out of his way. He travels to Genua, where he once was sired by a Swiss sick-nurse and an irresponsible globetrotter. In Genua, he is drunken nearly all the time and tries to write down his philosophical – often cynic – "gnosis".

It is about – like the whole novel – the relation between Konrad and Magda, between man and woman, between womanhood and manhood. The guilty for his "departure", due to Magda, who represent the totality of all women, who destroy men with their will to self-actualization.

Zündel has two important meetings in Genua: In a bar, he meets Serafin (not only his name reminds angels) a Spanish sailor with an Austrian dialect. The two men are constating a relation between their souls – and leave each other. Not less surreal is the meeting with the French woman Nounou, Zündel spends a night with her, again discovering "relation of souls". He leaves her in dawn, before the situation would "necessitate hundred knives to separate us."

After these two meetings, Zündel wants to fulfil the main goal of his voyage: Getting an illegal handgun. This plan shipwrecks, too. Because of his naivity and gentleman’s style, Zündel is frauded. Afterwards, he travels home. Extremely confused, undernutrited and now heavily addicted to alcohol, he enters the flat, where the distressed Magda has expected his return for days. A normal conversation, that would clear these misunderstandings (e.g. the not existing lover), isn’t possible, because Zündel now is mentally ill.

The next morning, the teacher Zündel only gives another two lessons, which turn out to be very strange. Then he breaks down in school, is brought to the hospital and then to mental clinic. The psychiatrists fail in making a diagnosis. Zündel escapes from the clinic to his weekend house in the mountains, where he hides armed and dangerous. The narrator, Busch, is the last person, who is able to get close to him, before he departs finally...


A very interesting feature in narration is the connection of the two narrative levels: The background of Zündel’s story narrated by Busch, that is staged and discussed again and again throughout the novel – and the philosophic pathos of the unpragmatic intellectual Zündel that opposes it.The power of words and the archaic constructions of Werner, read impressive and plausible.Sometimes, there is irony, that makes the tragicomic, prevents the story’s pathetic expression from getting kitsch. Impressive are the direct conversations of the persons, especially Zündel’s. Meaningless, inadequate statements, start sounding like symbolic parables, which deeper meaning, promises high gnosis – that isn’t reachable, that lies.Climax of this technique are Zündel’s totally meaningless, incoherent answers on the psychiatrist’s questions. The conversations sound like the dialogue of absurdist theatre.

The Swiss roots of the author and the protagonists are noticeable during the whole novel:There are Helvetisms like "das Tram" instead of "die Tram(-bahn)", because the Swiss say "Tram" (streetcar) with a neuter article, instead of using the feminine article, that would be correct in Standard German. Werner also writes "es tönt", while Standard German writers would rather use "es klingt" for "it sounds".

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