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Anna Baar: Als ob sie träumend gingen.

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Review

As if They Were Walking in a Dream.
Sample text (pp. 22-24):

In some summers, because not one drop of rain fell, the sun scorched the earth to dust, and the wind carried the dust from the narrow valleys in the karst plateau and blew the seeds from the fields and scattered it far out to sea. In times of great drought, when children and animals died like flies and fruit threatened to wither before it was ripe, the villagers went on a pilgrimage to the chapel of St Anthony, walking the last stretch with bare feet, to mollify the saint's anger. They denied themselves feasting, dancing and making merry, and their faces wore a sombre expression, so that God would see immediately how seriously they were ridding themselves of the guilt which they had heaped upon themselves. And so it went on until the rain came and everything again took its usual course and from all the towers, all the farms and windows there came the noise of life.
As for Klee, everything also took its course, but differently. The youngest son of Darovan, a worthy peasant, who had tasted someone else's bread only during his military service, was a blustering, awkward child, anxious about the figures produced by his imagination, heedless of real dangers or what people thought of as such. He was also inclined to play the fool if he thought the people from the farm were unsmiling and uncommunicative. Often he would keep on behaving like that until he had an attack of tears because he had again realised that the laughter he had unleashed was not just a sign of happiness but rather of mockery. As time passed he turned his ambitions to other matters, soon showing himself to be skilled at everything that required agility, strength and courage, even if people now said that he had ants in his pants.
Yes, that's the way it was with Klee. His good wishes and intentions grew higher into the sky than the cemetery cypresses, but as they did so he forgot that anything that someone tried to do to improve his lot and that of others without being asked to do so could go wrong, if in the end one considered only the result but not the good intention with which the deed had been carried out. It disturbed him that his mother, whose natural cleverness he thought highly of, claimed not to understand why he gave the last mouthfuls of goat's milk to the cats or spread honey over the stable door to keep down the flies which swarmed round the mule's eyes. The fact that his mother had boxed him on the ears when he held out a bunch of carnations to her convinced him that the flowers gave his mother more joy than they had to the late Kata the rag-and-bone woman, who while she was still alive had such poor sight that she could not distinguish between day and night. And then at once came the second box on the ears, because when she asked where he had got the flowers from he just shrugged his shoulders, to spare his mother the word that made everyone think immediately of death. And then immediately the third one, because he also denied the lie – who wanted to have a liar as a son! God, from whom nothing remained hidden, definitely thought as he did: it was a sign of love to keep bad things from her, even if his mother took this touched-up truth in the wrong way, just as she would have taken the untouched-up truth the wrong way, so that it could seem as if precisely what had been done with the best of intentions could end badly in the face of the law of decency.
Naturally Klee knew nothing better than to keep firmly to his intention of impetuously pursuing what seemed good and important to him. As early as in his fifth year, when once again the harvest was small and the hunger great, the village women had quickly closed their shutters as soon as they saw him on the street. Before that the one-eyed Manda had observed him throwing something at the swallows' nest under the eaves of her house, whereupon she had called him a stone thrower in a voice that carried a long way. Now they all thought they knew who the main target of God's anger was. It may be that the one-eyed Manda had really thought that the lump of bread was a stone, but probably that was not the case, as after all she was so eagle-eyed with her one good eye that could see into the future, a gift which the village women were keen to make use of when impatience and curiosity were gnawing at their souls. They believed every word the girl said and kept resolutely to that belief. So Klee remained the stone thrower – and that was also the case even after her transformation. She had fallen into a state which robbed her of her visionary powers, had thought she was possessed by a jinn and quickly gone in search of a priest to drive it out. He seems to have talked the jinn out of her, in a lengthy night-time procedure. But after that she was not any brighter. In the sixteenth year of her life she began to cut faces and to groan like an animal, talented at saying just one single sentence – Manda, Manda, pretty child. On top of that she used signs to make herself understood, just like a child, and also began to play with her little doll.

© 2017 Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen
© English translation: Leigh H. Bailey, 2018

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