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Nava Ebrahini: Das Paradies meines Nachbarn.

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Nava Ebrahimi: My Neighbor's Paradise.
Novel.
Munich: btb, 2020.

224 S.; Euro 20,60.
ISBN: 978-3-442-75869-2.

Nava Ebrahimi

Review

Excerpt

"I feel like I'm in a cow pasture when I look at you all. All those big eyes and brains that just chew on and on. And I thought I was meeting with the in-house design team of an international top label. Wait, am I in the right place? Let me check…Yep, this is it: 11:30 in the Big Bubble. So, the top designers, that must be you guys.
But it looks like my simple question presents a real challenge.
Seriously: What are you thinking so hard about? Or no, you're not thinking at all, your stomachs are just rumbling. 'Rumbling' is the perfect word for what you're doing. Rhymes with 'crumbling'. So you're gathering crummy crumbs now, huh? What was the last thing I was really excited about? Hmm, what? Aha. That I got to use the same ticket for the pool twice?'
So intensely anxious. Your fear makes you so one-dimensional. So readable. Just take a look at yourselves. Your faces are books for beginners! What are you actually afraid of?
Okay, you don't need to tell me.
So. What was the last thing you were really excited about?
Then at least be honest. Maybe something interesting will come of it. If nothing else, maybe it'll make us laugh. I bet your thoughts have already reached the third meta level. You've chewed over every possible answer numerous times.

'The film with Matt Damon in the leading role is cool, but a film is too obvious, I need something that can only have inspired me – because I have this unique brilliant view of things. The arrangement of the potted plants in the hanging basket in the stairwell? There's something nerdy about that. Something anti-intellectual would be even better. Hmmm, crumble, crumble.'
You're making that face your parents had on vacation in Italy, in the restaurant, crumbling over the menu.

'Should I have the Hawaiian pizza or the schnitzel?'
You'll go on crumbling for the rest of your lives, if you don't shift gears. Drool over your crumbs and turn them into boring porridge. That's your mush. More and more porridge, pulp it all together somehow. Makes me sick to think of all the pulp you've produced in your mushy lives. Good thing the door is opening now, I'm about to suffocate – knowing how spontaneous you lot are, you'd just watch me gasp for air – and you'd crumble over how to react coolly.
Oh, finally, a list of all the creatives, thanks. 'Creatives', ha! Benjamin B. Benecke, Industrial Design. Johanna Ehrmann, Market Research. Joelle Schummer, CMF-Design. Joelle. Noemi Puder. Hahaha! Bet you anything you went to a Waldorf school."

(P. 16-17)
 

There were thirty of us boys. Neither trained nor armed. In a bus headed south to fight Iraqi troops. They made no secret of the purpose we were to serve: "You're going into Holy War; you are sacrificing yourselves for our real soldiers waiting behind the battle line. Don't be afraid, you'll wake up in paradise.' That's what they had already instilled in us at school. I was inclined to believe it. But my parents didn't think much of mullahs. They taught me the meaning of propaganda early on. It's the word they used the most. When I reported to them what they told us in school, they made sure to brainwash me thoroughly. 'You only have one life on this earth, no more, so roll up your sleeves and make something of it,' they hammered into me on a daily basis. And 'Don't believe a single word they say, or else you're doomed. Don't even believe them when they tell you one and one is two.'
Despite everything, as I looked out of the bus window at the barren landscape, I tried to picture paradise. I could play soccer there all day or just lie in bed, drink coke, eat ice-cream, watch Knight Rider and draw cars that my mother, as soon as the design was finished, drove up in and handed over to me. In my paradise, of course, I already had my driver's license.
The guy sitting next to me was a year older and had a completely different image of paradise. Did everyone arrange their own version of paradise? Yes, I concluded, my neighbor's paradise could be my hell. That meant that God had to know my vision of paradise – or did I need to, as a precaution, pack it into a prayer? Pray? I was already developing a bad conscience when it came to my parents. In school they told us that those who fought in the war washed their sins away with their blood. The next question popped up: Are you stuck alone in your own personal paradise?

(P. 49–50)

© 2020 btb, Munich
© English translation: Ida Cerne, 2020

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