Fiction by Robert Steiner
Robert Steiner’s Bathers is set in a seaside fishing village in a nameless subtropical country. The steamships still bring sunworshiping vacationers “hoping to grow experience as if it were hair,” who yet remain oblivious to the realities around them: political repression, guerrilla warfare, economic blight. Through the probing eyes of an aging gardener who has had better days, the reader enters a disjointed world where even the land itself is in rebellion, while the rich texture of the narrative heightens the contrast between what is known and what is feared to be discovered. Bathers, Steiner’s second novel, was written over a six-year period, while the author was living in England, Spain, Germany, and Greece, and the book developed in direct relation to political and natural disasters he witnessed or found himself involved in. His district in London was constantly searched for I.R.A. members; in Spain, his village, a Basque stronghold, was persistently ransacked by the Guardia Civil for terrorists; in Munich he observed “a virtual state of siege” following a political kidnapping; in Greece he experienced an earthquake that struck Thessaloniki, killing sixty-four people and causing a city of half a million to be abandoned. In Bathers, Steiner meditates on the explosive dualities that lie below the surface of word and deed: love in violence, ethics in madness, the objectivity born of fictive illusion. Ultimately, the author asks us to test ourselves against our own perceived reality, to accept the mythic tendency of the everyday world.