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Angela Lehner: Vater unser.

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Our Father.
Novel.
Hanser Berlin, 2019.
288 p.; Euro 22,70.
ISBN 978-3-446-26259-1.

Angela Lehner

Excerpt

"Eva's always lying." That's the running theme of Eva Gruber's life. She lies to Dr. Korb, her psychiatrist; she lies when she says she knows the Lord's Prayer by heart; and she lies about why she was sent to the psychiatric hospital. As the novel progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that other things are also amiss with Eva. As her behavioral problems multiply, the author's treatment of them is laconic, almost cynical, but never sentimental or whiny. More than anything, Eva is enraged.
At Otto Wagner Hospital, better known by its initials, she unexpectedly sees her brother Bernhard, who refuses to eat. Piece by piece, we come to see Eva's dysfunctional family through her eyes: her mother, a wicked witch who dominated her defenseless brother, and her isolated father, to whom Eva feels close but who eventually leaves his family. More and more memories rise to the surface, but Eva's memory is not to be trusted. Her versions of events rarely match those of the people around her. Her perceptions blend past and present, overlapping old and current images and concealing whatever goes beyond Eva's ability to cope. The entanglement of the present time with Eva's memory also keeps the reader guessing.
Eva fights back, and not only with false memories. She is belligerent, aggressive. Her rage goes along with terse wit and abundant situational comedy. Her humor, delivered with a deadpan, flippant tone, quickly clues us in that her cynicism is one more strategy for coping with her surroundings, her memory, and probably herself.
In this impressive first novel, Angela Lehner succeeds in artfully exploring the old, seemingly worn-out subject of the unhappy family through a new, genuine, and very memorable voice.
We readers are never certain where the problem lies, what is and is not real, which memories are accurate, and which are not until almost the very end. When genuine memories break through, it is too late – and Eva is not the only victim.

Excerpt of the review by Johanna Lenhart, April 1, 2019.
English translation by Jake Schneider.

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