Natasha Brown – Assembly [Dt. Zusammenkunft]

Natasha Brown – Assembly (Zusammenkunft)

Eine junge Frau aus bescheidenen Verhältnissen. Arbeite hart, mehr als die anderen, pass dich an. Das haben ihr ihre Eltern mitgegeben. Sie hat fleißig gelernt, einen guten Abschluss an einer renommierten Universität gemacht, einen Job im Finanzsektor ergattert und doch besteht ihr Alltag hauptsächlich aus Diskriminierungserfahrungen. Weil sie eine Frau ist. Weil sie die falsche Hautfarbe hat. Weil sie der falschen Klasse entstammt. Im Privaten? Nicht viel besser. Die Familie ihres Freundes toleriert sie, sie ist nur eine Phase, aber ganz sicher keine standesgemäße Partie, die als heiratstauglich angesehen werden könnte. Sie hat alles getan, um dazuzugehören und hat doch keinen Platz erhalten.

Natasha Browns Debütroman „Assembly“ (dt. Zusammenkunft) ist mit begeisterten Stimmen aufgenommen und vom Feuilleton gefeiert worden. Rassismus, Klassismus, Misogynie – sie bringt die großen Themen auf kaum mehr als 100 Seiten zusammen und verdeutlicht damit, dass Großbritannien nichts von all dem überkommen hat, was seit Jahrzehnten beklagt wird. Wichtige Aspekte, Themen, über die gesprochen werden sollte, aber: das hat man schon besser gelesen. Die Protagonistin kann sich kaum entwickeln, da ist der Roman – oder ehe: die Novelle – schon wieder zu Ende. Themen anreißen, ja, aber wichtiger wäre noch eine gewisse Tiefe.

Mir fehlt in der Geschichte ein wenig die Kohärenz, eher episodenhaft werden Szenen präsentiert, in denen die Hauptfigur Diskriminierungserfahrungen macht, sei es aufgrund ihres Geschlechts, ihrer Klasse oder ihrer Hauptfarbe. Sie versucht sich anzupassen, was nur leidlich gelingen kann und immer wieder wird sie zur Projektionsfläche derer, die gescheitert sind und sie dafür verantwortlich machen – als Frau, als Ausländerin, da werden ihr die Jobs ja geradezu nachgeworfen, nur um Diversität zu fördern.

Sie ergibt sich, schweigt, spielt mit – im Gegensatz zu ihrer Freundin Rach, die lauthals für die Gleichberechtigung einsteht. Die Protagonistin schafft es hingegen nicht einmal vor Schulkindern ehrlich von ihren Erlebnissen zu berichten. Der Kampf wäre auch nicht einfach möglich, zu schwer wirkt die Intersektionalität; es ist eben nicht der eine Grund, der sich zum Opfer von Diffamierung macht und sie daran hindert, sich mit einer bestimmten Gruppe zu identifizieren.

Trotz all dem, was in der kurzen Geschichte steckt, für mich waren hier Bernardine Evaristo mit ihrem Roman „Girl, Woman, Other“ oder auch mit ihrem Sachbuch „Manifesto“ ebenso wie Michaela Coels „Misfits“ viel greifbarer und ausgereifter in der Thematik.

Donna Leon – Give unto Others

Donna Leon – Give unto Others

When Commissario Guido Brunetti is contacted by his childhood neighbour, he is a bit perplexed and does not know what to do. Elisabetta Foscarini is worried about her daughter Flora. She does not provide any real details but Flora’s husband Enrico Fenzo makes her feel uncomfortable. The accountant has helped her husband Bruno to set up a charity but then suddenly left the project to take care of other clients. Her feeling might stem from Fenzo’s business contacts but she cannot really nail it down. Brunetti promises to look into the matter even though he is not convinced of any threat. Since life has become slow in Venice due to the pandemic, he and his team have got the time to investigate the matter. Just when the start digging, Flora’s veterinary clinic is vandalised and some animals are seriously harmed. Soon after, clever Signorina Elettra finds some remarkable facts about „Belize nel Cuore“, Bruno del Balzo’s charity.

Not a classic murder investigation for the Venetian Commissario. However, Donna Leon cleverly integrated the pandemic into the plot which slowed down life in the Italian city due to the lack of tourists. Thus „Give Unto Others“ differs quite from the other crime mysteries in the series but in my opinion, it is a lot more complex and interesting since it is not that obvious where the investigation will lead to and the characters, too, have a lot more depth.

What brings Elisabetta to Brunetti is quite vague at the beginning, neither does she really know where her uneasy feeling comes from nor does the detective know where exactly to start and to look. As it turns out, things are not what they seem and people have motives they successfully hide for a long time thus exploiting others reach their questionable aims.

Rapidly, the story develops into a financial crime novel which is complicated on the one hand, and, on the other, tells you a great deal not only about people but also about legislation. At the end, you have learnt a lot of things you actually did not really want to know and again, the thin line between legal and illegal reveals itself to be quite flexible depending on the point of view: what is morally questionable might be perfectly legal.

A thought provoking crime mystery that, again, I thoroughly enjoyed.

Noah Hawley – Anthem

Noah Hawley – Anthem

All over the country, teenagers are committing suicide, leaving a note that says “A11” which does not make sense to the adults. While America sinks into chaos with violence ruling the streets, a group superrich enjoys their peaceful life. Some individuals still believe in the constitution, thinks that with the established structures, they can do something to turn the situation around, to make a change. Among them is Margot Burr-Nadir who is about to be appointed to the Supreme Court. She has strong convictions and is well-meaning but the disappearance of her daughter Story also occupies her mind. While some still hope for a future, it much rather seems as if the last day of mankind has arrived.

I was so looking forward to Noah Hawley’s next novel and “Anthem” sounded like a luring effigy of the world we are heading to. Now, in March 2022, I had to start the novel three times until I could finish it. Neither the author nor the book is to blame, reality which has overtaken Hawley’s imagination at a tearing pace is. This was simply not a good moment for me to read a dystopia in which single persons accept the destruction of countries, of lives, to reach their personal goals.

“Anthem” portrays the USA in a state not much different from reality, just a step further. I liked Hawley’s thoughts and direct addresses to the reader in the story, especially that moment where he ponders about how you can write a satirical text while reality is the best satire (referring to people complaining about how masks limit their personal liberty). Well, that was yesterday, if we thought that after two years of pandemic nothing could shock us anymore – surprise, surprise.

Stories of the deep state, a global conspiracy of the rich and the powerful, people living within and yet outside society captured in their own frame of belief built on bits and pieces gathered here and there – there is nothing unthinkable anymore. We have seen all of that wondering where it might lead ultimately – and how the next generation might react to it. The aspect of collective suicide since there is no hope, no future anymore is persuading: what has this world to offer them? News, fake news, alternating news – what can you believe? Bombings, attacks, wars, violence – when is your turn to be hit? There is a small group of teenagers, courageously following their ideals, showing empathy and thus bringing some hope to the plot. Unfortunately, I cannot imagine this happening right now.

There is so much in the novel to ponder about. Noah Hawley without a doubt greatly developed aspects of the present into his dystopian future, showing how closely he observes the world he lives in and touching sensitive issues which should lead us to react before it is too late. Unfortunately, the novel did not come at the right moment for me to really enjoy it.