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Living is enough

Lettipark Stories S
With a few sentences, Judith Hermann can strive for a lifetime.

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

Berlin: Judith Hermann is considered one of Germany's most important writers and stylists. She was born in 1970 in Berlin, where she still lives and writes. For her writing, she has received a number of awards, including the Kleist Prize and the Friedrich-Hölderlin Prize. When she debuted with Holiday home, later (1998), she was praised for taking the pulse of a time and a generation of young adults in Berlin. Yet it is not the time-specific and place-bound that makes her an important writer. On the contrary.

Hermann's project is beyond time and space. Contemporary literature, of course; it is created today – but it is not as socially critical project that it is important. That's not why she should read; She is to be read because she is a writer who writes life, people who live today, who lived yesterday, and who, like Judith Hermann's literature, will live in thirty years, in fifty years. Here is a liberating absence of moralizing and teaching. Hermann is relevant because she writes well, true and accurate about to be. She makes us think and feel and question our own lives, the lives of our fellow human beings, and the choices we make. Why do we choose to forget? Why do we choose to remember? She makes us look at each other with a new look: a gentler look. Here there is a respect both for the individual and for the collective, and the significance we can have for each other for the limited time we are here.

Hopeful sadness. Letti park (in Norwegian: Letti Parks), her fifth book, consists of 17 shorter stories. In each story there are several.

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A little sun, a little rain, a little food, a little death, first coffee, and so the days go, life goes. That was it. With Judith Hermann, life goes on almost imperceptibly. Because despite the fact that people may have undergone major changes, which have often happened before the action itself begins, told in small glimpses, I am often left with a feeling of stagnation, and that it is the characters themselves who seek this. Not as resignation, but as consolation. As if they want to keep the transient, the time itself, fixed, in some rituals, or in something seemingly trivial and simple: in the glass of milk, in the conversation over a kitchen table or on a staircase, in the last cake crumbs on a plate – and then , while waiting for something to happen, life happens.

Who is the closest? There is a care between the characters in the stories: “Do not stay up too long, Mrs. Rubinstein. And did not cry so much. Go to bed early. Sleep relieves everything. See you tomorrow. Tomorrow I will come again. "

One woman visits another, older woman. Washes her house, vacuums, serves her food, makes tea, changes her bed. Without getting a thank you. Without getting a look, a smile. Without even liking the older woman – who sits dumbfounded and looks into the television set and receives – she comes back again and again, for many years, all the way to the old door. Why does she spend much of her life with a stranger? What is this care based on?

Life changes; he who is to be there forever is not there forever, the faithful is not the faithful, the only is not the only. Something remains the same with the people in these stories. The need for the other. The need to be important to someone. I see you. You see me. That's it. It is enough.

The most important thing for the characters is not necessarily to be the one who gets closeness; here it can just as easily be about the one who needs to give to create meaning in one's own life. And the closest is often not the one we should expect. For whom are our closest, and it is important who has this role, as long as it exists some? Must the closest be one's best friend, spouse, boyfriend, mother, brother, lover? IN Letti park it is the one who is there at the moment that matters, and that can change quickly. The one who is closest today may be furthest away tomorrow, but in this also lies the certainty of the opposite, and in that there is comfort: In Hermann, closeness is more important than who is close.

This moment is all we own; this hour, this sun, this rain, this street, the shadow of this tree.

The real story. A cool winter day. Vincent helps some neighbors carry coal into a stable. Occasionally they drink coffee and talk. Vincent is four years old and has just lost his mother. She is described as "a living proof that one can die of love". When she was abandoned by Vincent's father, she locked herself in – and then she died. How long does death last, Vincent asks his father when his mother is gone. Wasn't it just about coal? Judith Hermann's poetry often occurs where descriptions of the transient, the mundane, abruptly meet a thought, an idea, transitions so efficiently and elegantly executed that they occasionally create a shocking effect. It's about death, it's about coal. With Judith Hermann, it is always about what it is all about. And they carry coal. "Coal", which is the first short story, sets the tone that continues throughout the collection: Little happens on the outer plane, but there is a story outside the story, and this story can roam through a lifetime: In a few sentences everything can be opened up, and thus shadows are cast far beyond the limits of the text, but never to belittle the small. With Hermann, the small story is also the big one. The here-and-now stories often feel as important as the possible insight, whether it's about carrying coal, about eating cake, about folding paper airplanes, about giving the old lady a cup of tea, about listening to a human you never will meet again. This moment is all we own; this hour, this sun, this rain, this street, the shadow of this tree – and precisely by writing about the everyday without underestimating it, Hermann writes a care for ordinary life.

Living is enough. It's as if every text wants to say: It's good enough, it's good enough, your life the way it is. Of course there is anxiety, of course there is sadness and disappointment, but you can feel good anyway, it's okay. Drink your coffee, read your newspaper, go for a walk, pick up your phone, talk about nothing, because what is "nothing"? For you, that may be all.

The book is now published in Norwegian by Pelikanen publishing house.

Hilde Lindset
Lindset is a short story writer. hilde.lindset@hotmail.com

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