The frail Dr. Stotz wants to put his estate in order and secures the services of the unemployed young lawyer Tom Elmer for a princely fee. In addition to work, the job includes an apartment in the same building, opulent meals, lots of alcohol and hours of fireside chats.

It quickly becomes apparent that the central role in the life of Dr. Stotz plays a mysterious woman. What is the old man up to when he lets the young lawyer rummage through box after box of old documents and memories?

The Swiss author Martin Suter has published another real novel, his eleventh. The name of the mysterious woman is also the title: Melody. “It sounds like a melody, is mysterious and has something tempting,” says Suter of the German Press Agency. And that in turn sounds like the quintessence of Suter’s writing. His stories often include something as tempting as love and good food, a thread like a melody and, above all, secrets about appearances and reality. “It’s very much the case with Melody,” says Suter.

Long waiting

dr Stotz always gets going with enough alcohol when he presents his Melody experiences to Tom bit by bit. But what happened to her after she disappeared without a trace more than 40 years ago shortly before the wedding? Really without a trace? The old man turns out to be a damn good storyteller. In Tom’s search for the truth, Suter repeatedly leaves traces of “appearance and reality”: “Aren’t we all looking for a story that makes us more interesting?” asks a friend of Dr. Stotz about.

Followers of Suter’s colorful novel worlds have had to wait six years for the new book since “Elefant” (2017). In the meantime he has the protocol of his private chats with the author Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre about swimming trunks, glitter and LSD (2020, “All have become so serious”) and a biography novel about one of the bravest German footballers, Bastian Schweinsteiger, submitted (2022, “One of You”). Just different. So now another novel in the Suteresque style. Sample: “In the beginning he didn’t wear a tie. He thought his final grades were tie enough”, or: “It smelled like a tobacco pipe, coffee and the past”.

“Melody” is a book about the pitfalls of old age and the vanity of some people to embellish their biographies for posterity before they die. And of course about eternal love. Suter knows a lot about this, he has been with his wife for almost 45 years. What is the secret of a long love? Typical Suter, mysterious: “I’m still figuring that out. Life is actually too short to really get to know yourself, including yourself.”

Like a guitarist without an amp

With “Melody” Suter has also rediscovered another love: writing by hand. He found a tablet computer that turns handwriting into block letters. “As a result, I didn’t sit at my desk for a few hours every day, but also wrote on the sofa, in the garden, on the train – completely “unplugged”, like a guitarist without an amplifier,” he says. It was a good experience. “Thanks to modern technology, I’m becoming more and more old-fashioned, I’m writing by hand again, like I was 16,” says Suter.

And again Melody: What’s the moral of the story? “My stories actually have no morals,” says Suter. “But I know what you mean. It might be: There isn’t just one truth, there are many truths.”

Martin Suter: Melody, Diogenes Hardcover, 336 pages, 26 euros, ISBN 978-3-257-07234-1