PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
A funny, precise page-turner...Every school board should issue a directive with immediate effect making The Staff Room required reading for all teachers.
A fantastic satire with touches of George Orwell.
For the last 25 years Dedalus - the withdrawal of Arts Council funding notwithstanding- has made an important contribution to British culture by publishing European fiction in translation. They love writers who deal in what they call distorted reality - the unusual, bizarre and surreal -such as this wonderful satire, translated from German by Mike Mitchell, which is as funny as it is savage.
The English translation of German writer Orths' darkly humorous satire about a teacher trying to stop a nightmarish totalitarian regime damaging the school system is a hit in the author's homeland. This Mike Mitchell translation retains Orths' absurdity and penchant for the ridiculous.
Absurd, hyperbolic, paranoid, and funny - The Staff Room tells the story of Kranich, a newly qualified secondary school teacher's experience at his first job. Curiously, the students rarely figure into the tale. The story focuses on the administration, namely the headmaster, and his illogical, 'Big Brother-ish' attitude towards employees. Kranich suffers through the headmaster's and the broader school system's inane rules and petty priorities. Meanwhile, his more seasoned colleagues get by whinging at pubs and avoiding work. Kranich feels alienated and lonely, unable to find reliable support anywhere.The story’s cynicism will satisfy the post-modern litterateur; however, its fixation on the overbearing presence of the headmaster can prove repetitive. Characters are developed through snippets of conversations and through their relationships with each other, which may also prove frustrating to the reader interested in deeper character sketches. However, this short work succeeds in satirizing a school system badly in need of reform.
In this translation the jokes and puns work(surely no mean feat), the grotesque depiction of the school carries an insider's conviction, and the story moves smartly along. That the school and what transpires there may be read as a metaphor for wider society is never laboured. Better readers than I will draw parallels with the way things are in their own staff-rooms, and be glad to have discovered Marcus Orths, and Dedalus Books.