Daniel Katz’s 13th book, The Love of the Berber Lion is playfully aware of its ancient roots. In fact, his (post)modern collection of stories is, on every level, a conscious non-Finnish metafiction depicting the very process of writing. The subject of animals gives Katz many opportunities for the dark humour and gentle irony common throughout his work.
The collection consists of twenty-four stories, each involving animals in one way or another. They were all sketched by a writer named Attila Kuf, whose funeral is depicted at the beginning of the book. In addition to Kuf ’s writing, the collection includes a foreword and a postscript by Kuf ’s friend, Mr Ypsilon, who is asked to complete his friend’s stories by Kuf ’s widow. Kuf did not complete a single story, so the endings are all the work of another writer.
The incompleteness of the stories also fulfils a philosophical function. After all, the fables originally provided readers with maxims, while the moral of the story was at the end. In the book, Kuf does not view life so simply: perhaps this is the book’s overall ‘moral’. In its wittiness and lightheartedness, The Love of the Berber Lion certainly lives up to the other function of the fable.
It’s hard not to laugh out loud at the trials and tribulations of the neurotic Kuf. In underlining his Jewish roots, Kuf ’s self-flagellation (kuf is the Hebrew letter K) is something akin to that found in the novels of Philip Roth and his protagonist Nathan Zuckerman.