Sigrid Nunez – Der Freund

sigird-nunez-der-freund
Sigrid Nunez – Der Freund

Nachdem ihr Mentor und bester Freund sich selbst das Leben genommen hat, erbt die Ich-Erzählerin einen Hund. Kein kleines Schoßhündchen, sondern eine riesige Dogge, die viel zu groß für ihre kleine New Yorker Wohnung ist, in der sie ohnehin keine Hunde halten darf. Aber irgendwer muss das Tier ja nehmen, das genau wie sie den Verlust des Gefährten betrauert. Die Annäherung an Apollo – der einzig wirklich passende Name für ein solch imposantes und schönes Tier – ist nicht einfach, doch nach und nach finden sie zusammen in ihrer Trauerbewältigung, die sich für die Erzählerin gedanklich zwischen Erinnerungen an den Freund, literarischen Analysen und den Studenten ihrer Creative Writing Kurse abspielt. So befremdlich der neue Mitbewohner für sie zunächst ist, so groß stellt er sich emotionale Stütze heraus.

Sigrid Nunez achter Roman katapultierte die Autorin schlagartig ins öffentliche Interesse, da sie mit diesem 2018 den National Book Award gewann und für zahlreiche weitere literarische Preise nominiert wurde. Der Roman besticht weniger durch die Handlung, diese ist recht reduziert, sondern letztlich durch den geschickten Genremix, der Nunez überzeugend gelungen ist. Literarische Betrachtungen, philosophische Spaziergänge, Erinnerungen, psychologische Analyse und geradezu banale Alltagssorgen im Zusammenleben mit einem Hund werden durch eine mal melancholische, mal heitere, mal fast wütende Erzählstimme zusammengehalten.

Im Zentrum steht Apollo – die einzige Figur, die einen Namen erhalten hat. Apollo hat keine Vergangenheit, er war irgendwann einfach da, und aufgrund seines Alters hat er auch keine Zukunft. Ebenso wie die Erzählerin trauert er offenkundig und die Frage, wer eigentlich wen tröstet, wer wessen Trauerbegleiter ist, bleibt letztlich offen.

Besonders gefallen haben mir die Grübeleien über das Schreiben und die Literatur, die Nunez mit pointiert ironischem Unterton präsentiert.

„Wenn Lesen die Fähigkeit zur Empathie tatsächlich fördert, wie uns ständig erzählt wird, dann scheint Schreiben sie zu vermindern.“

Die Überhöhung der Autoren, die in der Realität jedoch oft ein prekäres Dasein führen und häufig das Hadern mit ihren Emotionen und ihrer psychischen Instabilität als primäre Inspirationsquelle nutzen, greift sie direkt an und stürzt die Literaten vom gesellschaftlichen Thron. Doch wer eine Gedenkfeier nicht zum Erinnern an den Verstorbenen, sondern zum Netzwerken nutzt, hat es wohl auch nicht besser verdient. Nicht viel besser ergeht es den akademischen Institutionen, an denen keine kritische Auseinandersetzung und offene Diskussion ohne Rede- und Denkverbote mehr erfolgt, sondern die sich mit selbstauferlegten Beschränkungen vor Sorge um die augenscheinlich immer geringer werdende Belastbarkeit der Jugend zunehmend selbst in ihrer Gedankenwelt limitieren.

Unprätentiös und erfrischend amüsant lässt uns die Erzählerin an ihren Gedanken teilhaben und erfindet so den wahren literarischen Freigeist neu und macht neugierig auf ihre früheren Werke.

Jo Baker – The Body Lies

jo-baker-the-body-lies
Jo Baker – The Body Lies

After having been assaulted on her way home a couple of years before, a young writer never feels secure in her London house anymore. When she is offered a job by a remote university, this could not only solve the small family’s financial problems but also bring her away from the bad memories. She is supposed to take over a creative writing course and soon figures out that she is completely left alone since her colleague who was supposed to mentor her is on a leave. The trimester starts slowly but she gets along well with her students even though they seem to be quite unique. When they read out their first writing attempts, the situation becomes complicated since one of them, Nicholas Baker, insists on only telling the truth and not inventing anything which is not taken very well by his fellow students. As the time advances, the professor feels more and more uncomfortable around him and his texts as they become increasingly more personal and Nicholas develops into a real stalker who is ready to turn his bizarre fantasies into reality making her the protagonist of his weird story.

“The Body Lies” is completely different form Jo Baker’s novel “Longbourn” which I read and enjoyed a couple of years ago. Reading it was not easy at times since, due to her vivid style of writing, you can imagine the event narrated without any problem and some of the violence really gets under the skin. This is really a psychological thriller as you follow the invasion of the protagonist’s private life and you are not sure if there could actually be a happy ending.

What I liked most about the novel was that, apart from being suspenseful and entertaining as a psychological thriller, it also conveys an authentic picture of reality and an important message. The unnamed professor is exposed to violence and does not really have a chance to fight the men who assault her. Defending herself would have led to more injuries in the first case and in the second, she feels ashamed for what happened to her which, unfortunately, is quite common. But not only the physical violence hurts her, it is first and foremost the psychological threat that slowly hurts her and the fact that she has nobody to believe her version of the story makes it even worse. Sadly, I have no doubt that the story told could happen anywhere everyday.

A great read even though it is at times hard to support.

Johannes Lichtman – Such Good Work

johannes-lichtman-such-good-work
Johannes Lichtman – Such Good Work

After losing his teaching job at a college because of his very peculiar assignments, Jonas Anderson moves to Sweden to change perspective and to have a fresh start. Even though he is some years older than the students there, he socialises with them easily and leads the life he had in his early 20s. After the break-up with his German girlfriend, he moves from Lund to Malmö, the town where 2015 masses of immigrants from the Middle East arrived. Seeing the hottest political topic in front of his own door, Jonas decides to get active and to volunteer in the work with the migrants, too. He soon realises that all that is meant to be supportive and good, doesn’t necessarily turn out to be such a good idea in the end.

Johannes Lichtman’s novel isn’t easy to sum up or to describe since his protagonist goes through tremendous changes throughout the novel which also affect the plot and the tone a lot. I really enjoyed the first part a lot when we meet Jonas trying to be a creative writing teacher. The tone here is refreshing and the character’s naiveté makes him sympathetic and likeable. With moving to Sweden and becoming a stranger and outsider, his role changes, yet, he still needs more time until he actually grows up and does something meaningful with his life.

The last part, his work with the unaccompanied minors, was for me personally the most interesting because I could empathise with him easily. Having myself worked with those youths when they came to Germany in 2015 and 2016, I went through the same emotions that Jonas went through. And I had to do exactly the same learning process: you want to help and you have good ideas, but actually they sometimes go past the needs of the refugees. The struggle between the news where all the immigrants were treated as a homogeneous mass and where the focus was put on the danger that came with them, and the everyday experiences with real people made it often hard to cope with the situation. In this respect, Lichtman did a great job because he depicted reality as it was back then.

All in all, a novel that addresses so many different topics with a lively and highly likeable style of writing, a great read not to be missed.