Jakob Nolte is a young German playwright and author. ALFF is his debut novel, published 2015. A hideous crime has been committed at the High & Low High School of Beetaville, New England: a student was found dead, sewn into a fence. Soon a second body follows. FBI agent Donna Jones is called to investigate. But the murderer is elusive, the investigation seems fruitless, and Donna reaches the edge of his sanity.
Put like this, the plot sounds clear-cut - but it isn't. With Nolte, form comes before function, and so he's less concerned with telling a crime-story, and much more with a danse macabre on the grave of US High School comedies from the 1990s. Nolte, who's born 1988 and has never been to the US, spins a post-modern, absurdist yarn with little regard for reality, but sometimes touching pretty close to the truth: the truth of being a teenager in the 1990s, the time of Grunge and Silence of the Lambs and S7ven, without ubiquitous mobile phones or even ubiquitous internet. It's a bit like Twin Peaks meets Heathers, but more, well, more 90s.
I didn't like ALFF as much as I liked Nolte's second novel, the German Book Award-nominated Schreckliche Gewalten, one of my favourite German novels of the last ten years. ALFF felt a bit too long and could've been more punchy. I still enjoyed it a lot. If you want to see somebody using the German language as a playing field, with a sense for style and little respect for convention, Nolte's your guy.