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Laura Freudenthaler: Die Königin schweigt.

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The Queen Stays Silent.
Graz: Literaturverlag Droschl, 2017.
208 Seiten; gebunden; Euro 20,-.
ISBN: 9783990590010.

Laura Freudenthaler


and looked towards the window, through which the night air was coming in

'The granddaughter had wanted to talk to Fanny about memories. Not your fairy-tales from the village, she had said, the real past. Fanny had smiled. She had not understood what the child wanted from her. She still didn't know. Perhaps the child had meanwhile understood that it was better to leave the dead in peace, and so had disappeared.' But Fanny does not let the dead go either. Looking back at her life it becomes clear: memories can be concealed but not suppressed. Fanny has not forgotten. She remembers: sometimes with her granddaughter, often by herself.

Laura Freudenthaler, who was born in Salzburg in 1984, gives us insights into the scraps of memory of an old woman. Her story is tragic and yet typical of an entire generation.

Fanny lives with her parents and her brother on a farm, and later can even go to a domestic science college. But her progress is slowed down. The brother falls in the war. Fanny marries someone from the neighbourhood: the village schoolteacher. She tries to keep on helping her parents on the family farm and at the same time to find her role as a wife. The people in the village whisper about the teacher's gambling debts and Fanny's father wanting to sell the farm. And these things become true. Shortly afterwards the next, more drastic loss: the father dies. Then a ray of hope. Fanny is pregnant.

Toni is born. The schoolmaster is active in party politics and spends his evenings going from one inn to another. One morning he does not return, he has been killed in a car accident.

As a single mother all Fanny can do is to be pragmatic. She moves to a large city. After a short period she moves on to a small town near her home village. She finds her way back into life and devotes herself to bringing up her son. He grows up into a young man. But she seems to lose her link to him. And Fanny's newly blossoming love life is also jeopardized: 'The head forester took Fanny's hand, which she had placed on her thigh, firmly in his, and said she should stay with him once more. Fanny said it was because of Toni, he needed her at the moment.' That Toni would need his mother still more in the time after is made all too clear to readers in the later course of things.

Freudenthaler's language manages to do completely without frills and flourishes and so has all the more weight. Fanny's remarks convey a feeling of disgruntled indifference which moves readers in a gentle manner. Every chapter, every paragraph – indeed, every word, makes itself felt. The impression of an apparently unfeeling woman gradually fades, and the reader perceives Fanny more and more for what she is: a woman who wants to keep her dignity by remaining silent.

Abridged version of the review by Erkan Osmanovic, 22 August 2017.
Englisch translation by Leigh H. Bailey.

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