Too Many Men
"It means 'too many men', a young man passing by said to Ruth. She is saying to you, you have too many men in your life. Ruth laughed. Too many men. She didn't have any men in her life.
"Ruth Rothwax is in control. She keeps her mind sound with her successful New York-based letter-writing business; she keeps her body sound by running and lifting weights. There's no one she has to report to since her three marriages ended. A good life, all in all...But there's something missing.
"Ruth has a burning need to travel with her father Edek to Poland. She needs him to help her make sense of the past - to make sense of the murder of her family. She needs him to help her understand who she is.
"So why are people staring at her as if they've seen a ghost?.
"Too Many Men is Lily Brett's most powerful and imaginative novel to date, a dazzling exploration of the places between past and present, tragedy and comedy, sanity and lunacy. It is the novel that confirms Lily Brett's unique status as one of Australia's wittiest and most loved writers."
The last time Ruth Rothwax had been with a group of Germans, she had wanted to poke their eyes out. The feeling had sprung out of her so suddenly and so unexpectedly that it had almost bowled her over. Where had this feeling come from? It had been a fully developed, ferocious wish - not some half-baked, half-hearted aggressive inclination. There had been no build-up, no preparation. One minute she was deep in her own thoughts, the next minute she wanted to gouge an old woman's eyeballs out. To stick her middle and index fingers right into those wrinkled sockets until the eyes dislodged themselves.
She had felt nauseated for hours after the incident. It had been in Poland, in Gdafisk. She had been staying at the Hotel Marta. The Marta was meant to be a luxurious hotel. But something had gone wrong. The tall, bleak building was awkward and ungainly. It stood on its large block of land, alone and unrelated to anything around it. It was impossible to feel at home at the Marta. A wind howled through the vast lobby each time the front doors were opened. And nothing was where it could be expected to be. The concierge's desk was hidden behind the women's toilets and the lifts were at the back of the building, a five-minute walk from the front desk.
The hotel was near the centre of the city. It felt as though it was in the middle of nowhere. Ruth's room was on the seventeenth floor. There was an international golf tournament on in Gdafisk, at the time. Every guest at the Marta seemed to be wearing a cap and carrying a set of golf clubs. There was a uniformity in the ensembles, too. The women wore pale sweaters and pastel pants or skirts. The men were dressed in knit tops, and plaid or patterned trousers.
From the Picador paperback edition, 1999.
This novel was shortlisted for the 2000 Miles Franklin Award.
About the Author:
Lily Brett was born in Germany and came to Melbourne with her parents in 1948. Her first book, The Auschwitz Poems, won the 1987 Victorian Premier's Award for poetry, and both her fiction and poetry have won other major prizes, including the 1995 NSW Premier's Award for fiction for Just Like That. Lily Brett is married to the Australian painter David Rankin. They live in New York.
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Last modified: January 30, 2006.