July 2009


My last day of class is over. Not only for this semester, but for the time while I am still employed in this contract: I do not need to teach next semester, and than I am out.

My students were cute and organized a breakfast for which they baked cake, brought fruits etc. – and we did get the work done. Overall it was a nice class, and I am glad that I leave teaching at the university with such a nice closure (and not my horror intro class of 93 students).

And now I am offline for a two week vacation in which I will only read for pleasure!

“Die Mittagsfrau” by Julia Franck
Published in 2009 by Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 430 pages

During June an old friend of mine stayed a couple of days with and the weekend without me in my apartment in My City. I had to work and was exhausted in the evenings, especially as reconstruction was going on the days before her arrival because the whole house got new drainpipes. Therefor I was not really enterprising, and luckily she was not interested in going out every night. We cooked, we drank wine, we watched some TV, we talked, and laughed, and some evenings she met with other friends she has in My City.
She gave me a book as a present, this time “Die Mittagsfrau”, last year when she and her buddy stayed for a week in my apartment while I was on vacation with The Husband it was “The uncommon reader”.
I read the book really quickly, and when she came back home from her get-together with friends we talked about it which I enjoyed.
It is the story about Helene who – at the beginning of the book – leaves her seven years old son after WWII on the platform of a train station (which in fact happened to the author’s father, which she learned a couple of years ago. If I understand correctly, there has never been contact between them again, and his mother passed away without ever mentioning her child. But the book is fiction). The novel leads us though Helene’s youth and adolescence in order to explain her reason. There where parts of the book I liked, especially language wise, but it is a sequence of – and I am lacking the right word – clichés?  Helene grows up in a small town, her mother is Jewish (and not from that town, therefor a foreigner to a lot of the citizens) and goes insane, Helene’s sister is in love with another woman and additionally there are incest/erotic scenes among the two sisters (and that was when I thought it gets a bit of the top). After their father’s death the two escape to an aunt they had not even known before, who lives a roaring-20’s-cliché life in Berlin. Helene falls in love, gets pregnant, her fiancé dies, she marries someone she does not love who helps her with the papers, not knowing a lot of her background (and if I remember correctly is a Nazi), and when he figures out that she expects a child from someone else goes berserk. She raises the child, not in a loving way, and on their escape at the end of WWII leaves him at the train platform.

Am I the only one to find this storyline a bit too exuberant?

The first three sentences:

“Auf dem Fensterbrett stand eine Möwe, sie schrie, sie klang, als habe sie die Ostsee im Hals, hoch, die Schaumkronen ihrer Wellen, spitz, die Farbe des Himmels, ihr Ruf verhallte über dem Königsplatz, still war es da, wo jetzt das Theater in Trümmern lag. Peter blinzelte, er hoffte, die Möwe werde allein vom Flattern seiner Augenlieder aufgescheucht und flöge davon. Seit der Krieg zu Ende war, genoss Peter die Stille am Morgen.”

P.S. I have read and reread her book “Liebediener” and enjoyed that a lot.