Hendrik Otremba – Kachelbads Erbe

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Wer war H.G. Kachelbad? In den 1980ern tauchte er in Los Angeles auf, arbeitete offenbar im Bereich der Kryonik, aber so wie er aus dem Nichts plötzlich da war, ist er auch wieder verschwunden. Menschen erinnern sich an ihn und berichten von diesem. Die junge Rosary, die er in die USA holte, um bei den Suspensionen zu helfen, ein Liebhaber, der mit ihm den Ausbruch der Aids Epidemie erlebte, der Autor Shabbatz Krekov, dem ein zweites Leben geschenkt wurde. Alle glaubten sie an den Traum vom ewigen Leben dank der Kryonik. Doch ist die Zeit dafür schon gekommen?

Hendrik Otremba ist künstlerisch in vielen Bereichen unterwegs, ebenso sein Roman, der sich von verschiedenen Seiten her an seinen Protagonisten annähert, ohne ihn jedoch wirklich greifen zu können. Auch die Themen sind breit aufgestellt, von Zukunftssträumen der Technik über Medizin bis zu ganz persönlichen zwischenmenschlichen Aspekten und Ängsten touchiert der Roman die Bandbreite des Lebens.

ich sehe, dass sich zeit meines Lebens nichts getan hat, nichts zum Guten gewandt hat, dass die Menschen wider besseres Wissen, trotz der Erfahrung, trotz der ganzen verdammten Geschichte, weiter und weiter auf den Abgrund zurast. (…)Es müsste etwas Drastisches passieren, dann vielleicht gäbe es noch eine Chance. Aber so? Gib es doch zu, Kachelbad, wir sind verloren.“

Krekov hat die Nazis in Europa gesehen, den Kalten Krieg und den Ausbruch von Aids. Er kann nur zu dem zitierten Urteil über die Menschheit kommen. Dies überschattet auch die Atmosphäre des Romans. Trotz des Fortschritts, das dem onimösen Chinesen gelungen ist, der mit seiner Firma Menschen für ein Leben in einer besseren Zeit konserviert, überlagert die düstere und fatale Stimmung alles. Die wenigsten der erzählenden Figuren waren in ihrem Leben bis dato vom Glück verfolgt, immerhin gibt das Zusammentreffen mit Kachelbad ihnen wieder ein Funken Hoffnung und seine Zuneigung, obwohl diese mit viel Reserviertheit wohldosiert ist, lässt sie am Leben festhalten.

Die Handlung ist schwer zu greifen, die achronologische und multiperspektivische Erzählweise stehen diesem zu sehr im Wege. Die Figurenzeichnung wiederum ist Otremba fantastisch gelungen, die Erzähler offenbaren sich in ihren Notizen, von Kachelbad werden ganz unterschiedliche Seiten aufgezeigt, eben genau jene, die die einzelnen von ihm zu sehen bekommen. Erzählerisch überzeugt mich der Autor, man versinkt direkt in der Geschichte und kann diese nicht mehr loslassen. In vielerlei Hinsicht ein beachtenswerter Roman.

Samuel Park – The Caregiver

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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.

Mark Sarvas – Memento Park

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Mark Sarvas – Memento Park

Matt Santos is standing in an auction hall, looking at a picture, Budapest Street Scene by Ervin Kálmán. It will be sold the next day and he is ruminating about how this picture came to let him know more about his family than he ever did before and how it changed his life completely. His father had warned him about it, told him to let go, not to pursue the case any further, but he wouldn’t listen. So he is standing there on his own, alone, with his thoughts about his ex-girl-friend Tracy, whom he still loves, his lawyer Rachel, who helped him to get hold of the picture, and about his now deceased father.

Memento Park is not easy to summarise. It’s a novel about art, Jewish art in Nazi Europe; it’s about a complicated father-son relationship; it’s a story about people leaving their past behind and burying it down in the back of their minds after emigration; it’s about love and trust, and about religion and the faith you have and to what extent this creates your identity.

Matt is the child of Jewish family who suffered in Budapest under the Nazis, yet he doesn’t know anything about it. Even though he was never told anything about his family’s history, it lives on in him and through the relationship with his father. A father who does not seem to be loving or at least a bit affectionate. He is always distant and until the very end, Matt doesn’t understand why and he never asked. To me, this is the central aspect of the novel, even though I found the Kálmán story, his life and word, even though completely fictional but close to the stories of some artists of that time, also interesting.

Mark Sarvas chose an interesting title for his novel, “Memento Park” is the name of a location in Budapest where all the statues of former communist grandees are exhibited. It’s a way of dealing with the past, neither hiding nor ignoring it, but giving it a place where you can confront it; it’s just a part of life and it helped to shape – here to town and country – but also you as a person. In this way, there are more layers to the novel which make it a great reading experience.