It's incredible what the Germans can do—disgust you, isolate you, toss you—the reader—to the curb and expect devotion in return. (Unfortunately, it works.) Wolfgang Hilbig's The Interim is the revered German writer's most complete and erudite of his works translated into English. Isabel Fargo Cole doesn't miss a beat of Hilbig's humor and disorientation. The Interim reads like literature crawling out of the drain; the novel's narrator, known only as C., is both loveable and inescapable in his singular history of two Germany's: East and West. As C. has it: "Literature that refused to serve the purpose of distraction was punished by being passed over on the market. . . the best distraction was what sold the best." The Interim is the opposite of such distraction; it also happens to be a damn good book.