Ulla Lenze – Der Empfänger

ulla lenze der empfänger
Ulla Lenze – Der Empfänger

Dass sein Leben ihn nach Costa Rica führen würde, hatte Josef Klein nicht erwartet, als er fünfundzwanzig Jahre zuvor aus Neuss nach New York auswanderte. Der Anfang ist hart, doch nachdem er den Hilfsjob in der Druckerei gefunden hat, kommt sein Leben in geregelte Bahnen. In seiner Freizeit sitzt er vor seinem Empfänger, mit er Kontakt überall auf der Welt aufnehmen kann, so lernt er auch Lauren kennen, die junge Frau, die sich ihren Eltern widersetzt und ihre eigenen beruflichen Pläne verfolgt. Doch auch im Kreis seiner deutschen Bekannten regt sein Hobby Interesse und bald schon wird er gebeten, Nachrichten zu senden, verschlüsselte Zahlenreihen, alles nur zum Wohle des langsam erstarkenden Vaterlands. Lange verschließt Joe, wie er sich in den USA nennt, die Augen, doch die Anzeichen des drohenden Krieges werden immer deutlicher und bald muss auch er sich fragen, auf welcher Seite er steht.

Aus heutiger Sicht scheint vieles bezogen auf historische Ereignisse klar, die Fronten geklärt und die Grenze zwischen schwarz und weiß unverkennbar. Ulla Lenze indes zeichnet ein komplexes Bild des kleinen Mannes, der vielleicht mehr hätte wissen und sehen können, vielleicht naiv war, aber auch Jahre nach dem Krieg noch nicht sicher ist, ob er vorsätzlich missbraucht und geopfert wurde oder ob der Verlauf der Dinge einfach unglücklich war. Vor allem aber erkennt man in ihrem Protagonisten, wie schwer es für die Generation jener Auswanderer war, die in den 1920ern in der Hoffnung auf eine bessere Zukunft in die Welt aufgebrochen waren und dann durch das Nazi-Regime und den zweiten Weltkrieg plötzlich zwischen den Stühlen saßen und Partei für eine Seite ergreifen sollten, ohne zu wissen, wo sie eigentlich standen.

Auf mehreren Ebenen lässt die Autorin durch Rückblenden die Geschehnisse aufleben. Man beginnt am Ende in Costa Rica, davor standen Josefs harte Monate bei seinem Bruder in Neuss, zu dem er nach der Ausweisung aus den USA flüchtete. So interessant der Handlungsstrang in New York ist, fand ich die Entwicklung des Verhältnisses der beiden Brüder am spannendsten. Es ist eine Geschichte voller Missverständnisse, Nicht-Gesagtem, Enttäuschungen und unterschiedlichen Lebensentscheidungen. Erst bewegen sie sich langsam und vorsichtig umeinander, doch es ist klar, dass der große Eklat kommen muss. Nicht nur weil sie so verschieden sind, sondern weil es ihnen schwer fällt, die Perspektive des anderen einzunehmen und ihn wirklich zu verstehen.

Die Geschichte basiert auf wahren Erlebnissen des Onkels der Autorin und sie macht damit einen Teil der Spionagegeschichte zugänglich, der oftmals vergessen, dank der mitreißenden Erzählweise und dem cleveren Handlungsaufbau durch diesen Roman lebendig wird.

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.

Samuel Park – The Caregiver

samuel-park-the-caregiver
Samuel Park – The Caregiver

In the 1990s, Mara Alcenar is living in California and working as a caregiver for a woman who suffers from cancer. She has been in the US for many years, illegally like so many others and always struggling to survive and hoping not to be caught. Yet, going back to Brazil is not an option; it is just her thoughts that frequently return to her native country. She remembers the time when she was six and living with her mother Ana who worked in the film industry and dubbed foreign productions. She was also a great actor which lead her to a fatal decision: being offered a “role” by leftist rebels, Ana Alcenar couldn’t refuse. She needed the money for herself and Mara. But then, something went completely wrong at the Police Chief’s office. Years later, Mara is a teenager and gets the chance to revenge her mother – but is the episode as she remembers is actually the truth?

Samuel Park’s novel “The caregiver” focuses on two completely different aspects: on the one hand, he addresses political questions such as the military rulers of South America in the 20th century and the precarious situation of immigrants from these countries in the US. On the other hand, he has a very personal topic that the novel makes you think about: what do loving and caring mean and how far would you go for the ones you love?

For me, the parts of the novel that are set in Rio de Janeiro were the most impressive. The author really gives you a good idea of how life was like under those political circumstances and how important your personal bonds were to survive. The neighbour becomes crucial for survival, you find yourself quickly caught between the lines and even if you want to keep away from politics, this isn’t always possible. And there is not just black and white, but many shades of grey.

The question of what loving somebody means is also crucial in the novel. Not the love between lovers, but much more the compassion you feel towards family members and those close to you, how much you are willing to endure and even more importantly: how much you are willing to forgive and to forget.

A novel full of food for thought and at the same time wonderfully written.