The Appointment

Katharina Volckmer

Published 2 September 2020
French paperback with flaps, 104 pages

I know that this might not be the best moment to bring this up, Dr Seligman, but it just came to my mind that I once dreamt that I was Hitler. I feel embarrassed talking about it even now, but I really was him, overlooking a mass of fanatical followers, I delivered a speech from a balcony. Wearing the uniform with the funny, puffy legs, I could feel the little moustache on my upper lip, and my right hand was flying through the air as I mesmerised everyone with my voice. I don’t remember what exactly I was talking about – I think it had something to do with Mussolini and some absurd dream of expansion – but that doesn’t matter. What is fascism anyway but ideology for its own sake; it carries no message, and in the end the Italians beat us to it. I can’t walk for more than a hundred metres in this city without seeing the words pasta or espresso, and their ghastly flag is hanging from every corner. I never see the word sauerkraut anywhere. It was never feasible for us to hold down an empire for a thousand years with our deplorable cuisine; there are limits to what you can impose on people, and anyone would break free after a second serving of what we call food. It was always our weak point, we never created anything that was meant to be enjoyed without a higher purpose – it is not for nothing that there is no word for pleasure in German; we only know lust and joy. Our throats never get wet enough to suck anyone with devotion because we were all raised on too much dry bread. You know that horrible bread we eat and tell everyone about, like some sort of self-perpetuating myth? I think it’s a punishment from God for all the crimes we have committed, and forthwith nothing as sensual as a baguette or as moist as the blueberry muffins they serve here will ever come out of that country. It’s one of the reasons I had to leave: I no longer wanted to be complicit in the bread lie. But anyway, as I was delivering what we would now have to call a hate speech, I felt that the orgiastic applause coming from beneath me only served as poor compensation for my obvious deformities. I was so painfully aware that I looked nothing like the Aryan ideal I had been going on about for all those years. I mean, I did not have a club foot, but still, not all of the dead Jews in the world, nor even my alleged vegetarianism, would make me eligible for one of those hot Riefenstahl pics. I felt like a fraud. Had no one noticed that I looked like an old potato with plastic hair? I can still feel the sadness I woke up with that day, the sadness of knowing that I would never get to be one of those beautiful blond German boys with their Greek bodies and that skin that turns so wonderfully golden in the sun, the feeling that I would never be what I felt I should have been.

(...)

In a well-appointed examination in London, a young woman unburdens herself to a certain Dr Seligman. Though she can barely see above his head, she holds forth about her life and desires, and her struggles with her sexuality and identity. Born and raised in Germany, she has been living in London for several years, determined to break free from her family origins and her haunted homeland. In a monologue that is both razor-sharp and subversively funny, she takes us on a wide-ranging journey from outré sexual fantasies and overbearing mothers to the medicinal properties of squirrel tails and the enduring legacy of shame. With The Appointment, her audacious debut novel, Katharina Volckmer challenges our notions of what is fluid and what is fixed and injects a dose of Bernhardian snark into contemporary British fiction.

TLS Books of the Year 2020

‘Surprising, inventive, disturbing and beautiful – The Appointment is an overdue, radical intervention.’ 
Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick

‘[A] transgressive, darkly funny novel.’ 
New Yorker

‘Katharina Volckmer’s debut, The Appointment, is the most audacious novel I have read in years.[...It] is horribly funny and shockingly good; if the best writing takes a risk, this is Russian roulette.’
— Frances Wilson, TLS

‘Audacious...hilariously funny. The prose is immaculate, she captures you, buttonholes you from the very first page...It is better than it has any right to be for a first book.’
John Mitchinson, Backlisted

‘It is also deftly subtle, never binding the narrator to a determined gender identity or to a specific historical or national inheritance. At once sexy, hilarious, and subversive, the book is also acutely sad. Desire, in this novel, takes many forms: the desire to be heard, the desire to be otherwise, the desire for a different past and a different future.’
 RL Goldberg, Paris Review

‘[Volckmer] is especially acute on Germany’s handling of war guilt, particularly for her generation[...] But beneath her narrator’s bullishness and bombast lies an emotional vulnerability, which Volckmer conceals and reveals with deft control. [...] The Appointment is serious and challenging. Volckmer movingly explores the complexities not only of [the narrator’s] gender identity but also of all those living against the grain, looking out from the margins at those whose existences are “immediately understandable for everyone”.’
— Alexander Leissle, TLS

‘This is a very short book, but is long on ideas to ponder well beyond the last word.’
Bookreporter

 ‘Volckmer’s elegant construction never draws attention to such writerly maneuvers; physical descriptions, hints about Dr. Seligman’s practice, and information about other characters mentioned throughout accumulate naturally and never feel shoehorned in. [...] At a time when so few novels are published of which even that much can be said, Volckmer’s “mere” competence—her avoidance of clunky similes and unwieldy syntax—is refreshing. So, too, is her gleeful provocation, which, like that of Ottessa Moshfegh, is never in service to glib nihilism or amorality. In fact, this is a deeply moral book, one that, beneath the graphic sex talk and raucous vitriol, is concerned with contemporary Europe’s historical trauma, the oppressiveness of traditional gender roles, and one’s personal responsibility to the past. It remains to be seen what kind of career Volckmer will have, but consider The Appointment a warning shot fired across the bow of the modern novel.’
Seth Katz, Slant Magazine

‘It is striking both in both structure and content — an unbroken monologue in a consultation office for a penile construction surgery – and by turns knowingly shocking and slyly tender. The prose is breathless and erratic, littered with rhetorical questions and rapid changes in thematic direction. Through its relentless vulnerability, The Appointment elevates the role of the reader from passive voyeur to therapist; you are being begged to listen. […] At its core, though, The Appointment is unerringly incisive at capturing the pervasive emptiness that characterises the 21st century millennial experience.’  
— Ella Fox-Martens, SOFTPUNK

The Appointment is a wonderful first novel – at once savage and precise, hypercomical and furious. It has all the authority of true chutzpah.’
Adam Thirlwell, author of Lurid & Cute

The Appointment is an incredible debut; utterly compelling, its vibrant, incisive voice surprises and enlivens the reader on every page. It’s darkly hilarious, moving and original. I loved it.’
Megan Hunter, author of The Harpy

‘A book destined to enter the list of great monologues of literary history. If Dostoevsky’s underground man had read both Thomas Bernhard and Maggie Nelson, he might have conjured something as brave as this.’
Carlos Fonseca, author of Natural History

The Appointment is transgressive, spiky, full of ideas but astonishingly light-footed, written in beautiful, unsettling prose, and very, very funny – in short, everything a novel should be.’
Adam Biles, author of Feeding Time

‘Katharina Volckmer is a wild new talent, and unlike, say, twentieth-century Europe, The Appointment succeeds in justifying its obscenities.’
Joshua Cohen, author of The Book of Numbers

The Appointment is an epic truth bomb, a radical, hilarious roller-coaster, raw and wild as they come. The way this novel delights in itself, taking pleasure in its singularity and perversity, is the perfect antidote to boredom and bullshit. To read stories that are unapologetic is to be granted the courage to be more honest ourselves, which is one way literature actually can save the world.’
Elisa Albert, author of After Birth

Katharina Volckmer was born in Germany in 1987. She lives in London, where she works for a literary agency. The Appointment is her first novel.