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Valerie Fritsch: Winter's Garden.

de    en    fr    span    cz 

suhrkamp paperback, Berlin 2015.
ISBN 978-3-518-42471-1.

Valerie Fritsch


Nothing less than love in the face of the apocalypse is the subject of this first novel by the young author Valerie Fritsch, which she has chosen to open with images from an ideal childhood. Anton Winter spends his early life in a luxurious garden flooded with sunlight, among gentle people living in harmony with nature: both the elderly and the children enjoy their lives together in a caring symbiosis, while the adults of working age are away at their jobs.

Afterwards, we encounter the protagonist again as a grown man, now living as a bird breeder on the topmost floor of a high-rise in a town on the coast. Well aware of the now imminent end of the world, he seldom leaves his roof terrace; anyway, all his friends and companions have already died. Nonetheless, while taking a rare stroll through the streets one day, he meets a young woman, Frederike, crying bitterly and lamenting the many dead. Love at first sight would in other circumstances open up a whole new universe, yet in this case they have no other choice than to withdraw, in all their hopelessness, to Anton’s apartment, which is high above the town and closer to the heavens.

Their silent physical encounter results in faltering dialogues which lack any sense of a future. The aloof beauty and the lonely man form a couple who together represent the last hopes of the human race. In the maternity home, where Frederike fights for those who are still alive, Anton is reunited with his long-lost brother and the latter’s wife, who is giving birth to a child there. Together, they flee to the abandoned garden of their childhood, which becomes the desolate paradise of their final days.

Valerie Fritsch describes love and horror with an assured language and in impressive images. Although questions about the details of the catastrophic circumstances remain unanswered, this does not detract from the power of the novel in any way. The author, who has travelled the poorest countries of the world as a photographer, knows all about the basic existential needs of people for whom there is no tomorrow, and presents this situation in a very convincing way.

Review by Beatrice Simonsen.
English translation by Peter Waugh.
Original article: http://www.literaturhaus.at/index.php?id=10676

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