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Anna Mitgutsch: Die Annäherung

de    en    fr    span    cz 

(The Reconciliation)
A novel.
Munich: Luchterhand, 2016.
448 p; hardcover, Euro 23,70.
ISBN 978-3-630-87470-8.

Anna Mitgutsch

Excerpt

Father. Daughter. Stepmother. His past as a soldier in the Second World War, shrouded in silence for decades. An omnipresent death in the family. The narrative finesse of prizewinning novelist and intelligent essayist Anna Mitgutsch effortlessly transforms these elements into a novel about a family, the twentieth century, silence and forgetting, shame and attraction and, finally, about reconciliation.
Theo, a retired gardener, is ninety-six years old and has had a stroke from which he has fully recovered.
His daughter Frieda, over sixty and a former middle-school history teacher, has started to visit him again regularly, watched suspiciously by Theo’s second wife, Berta. Theo has been married to Berta for almost fifty years. The relationship between father and daughter, as a result of Berta’s scheming among other factors, has been difficult to near hostile for decades.
After Berta herself has a heart attack, from which she only partly recuperates, an aide joins the household – Ludmilla, a Ukrainian woman with no legal status.
Theo thrives under her closeness and care. But Berta becomes jealous and chases Ludmilla away, who returns to her small village in eastern Ukraine.
Theo then asks his daughter Frieda to drive to the Ukraine and bring Ludmilla money so that she will return to care for him in his last days.
Frieda grants her father this wish and leaves on a road trip with her partner Edgar, a retired music teacher with Jewish Ukrainian ancestors on his mother’s side. The money is handed over as planned, but Frieda does not pass on her father’s request for Ludmilla to come back.
Before they leave, Theo surprises Frieda by handing over his war diary – which she had never known existed – and its entries provide the historic underpinnings of their trip.

The final and fifth chapter describes Theo’s disappointment and his death.
At his graveside, Frieda and her long-estranged mother Melissa become closer again.
This novel about family and war, about characters and their weaknesses, shortcomings, and insights, about peace and the Holocaust, is permeated with a finespun melancholy.
The book thoughtfully circumnavigates the conflicts between those who took part and those who, like Frieda, want to bring light into the darkness. A truly remarkable book and perhaps Mitgutsch’s best, because most probing, novel.

Abbreviated review by Alexander Kluy, May 2016
English translation by Laura Radosh

Original: http://www.literaturhaus.at/index.php?id=11144

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