Fiction 12/1/2017

In Book Reviews, Featured Book Review by Craig Clark

The Happiness Bureau by Andreas Izquierdo  (Owl Canyon Press, $18.95, 9780998507330)

The Happiness Bureau, Izquierdo’s 2015 German novel, translated here by Rachel Hildebrandt, is an entertaining and heartfelt story of self-discovery amid a sea of paperwork. Middle-aged Albert Happy is content as a clerk in the Agency for Administrative Affairs. He spends his days distributing forms and processing requests in a massive bureaucracy, and he revels in the simplicity and uniformity
of his duties. Albert is an expert at navigating the governmental system; he knows all of the agencies, departments, and their associated forms. When an unfamiliar form repeatedly lands on his desk—despite his efforts to dispose of it—Albert resolves to discover the source of the mystery. Upon meeting the author of the request, an eccentric artist named Anna, Albert’s concrete and orderly existence dissolves into an unpredictable and colorful world that tests his boundaries both physically and emotionally. There is a cinematic quality in Izquierdo’s writing, and his renderings of the machinations of office life are lively and humorous. This touching and intimate literary drama will appeal to readers who enjoyed Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project or Helen Phillips’ The Beautiful Bureaucrat.

Craig Clark