asal Dardan was nominated for a German Realist Award for his “Barbarian Reflections”. The publisher, in turn, advertises the volume in the “Novels and Stories” category. There are good reasons for both classifications, because the author demonstrates in ten stylistically different chapters what Heinrich von Kleist tried to explain with his essay On the Progressive Production of Ideas During Speech. She carefully circled her texture. Sometimes she settles when an idea seems useful to her, and then again allows others to speak who have already reached the point that she still represents as a hunch. You write from a first-person perspective, suggest essay notes, and then return to literature.
She once recalls the prints of Karl Spitzweg, who adorned the walls of the high-rise apartment in Cologne where she grew up: “Beautiful, earthy backgrounds in which polite people have moved exactly where they belong, but are still a part of the present seem to have escaped.” This leads us to the most important question in Dardan’s book: How do you determine your place in time and in the world?
Global without a fixed location
At that time, the pupil was not yet aware that Spitzweg’s bourgeois sense of humor was itself bourgeois. On the other hand, the forty-three-year-old culturologist sees this paradox immediately. However, it does not serve the reader with complete insights, but rather provides preliminary results. She writes about her parents, who fled Iran to start a new life in Germany, about the problem of finding a stable identity, about the sense of continuing cultural traditions in their new homeland, about NSU and this gender.
These topics are dealt with against the background of their CV. Dardan, who turns out to be cosmopolitan without a fixed location but with a “clear sense of exile,” summarizes the stages of her life and shows that for her Iran is a story, not an experience because she can’t remember it. At the same time, she reviews the debates in Germany. She is trying to see the individual in the other and the foreigner in herself. Thus it is said of the German communist Olga Pinario Priestes, who was killed by the National Socialists: “I can look for parallels, but they only confirm how good I am and how different I am.”
Either or miss the point
The argument continually turns towards this aspect, which gives the runaway statements something like a kernel. The gap between ‘we’ and ‘you’ In the back of your mind, Dardan writes, Germans often act as if they weren’t one of them, but it seems quite out of place among Iranians: “They remind me of what I’ve missed that I wouldn’t take for granted.” It’s never taken for granted.” If the author leaves the space of personal experience to discuss how the past emerges into the present, she forges a dark horizon of expectation: ‘The appeals, ‘never again!’—they must convey what we have learned from history. But I no longer believe in that.”
The title of the book is borrowed from the novel by J. M. Coetzee “Waiting for the Barbarians”. In it he describes how society loses exactly what it wanted to protect from them through fear of strangers – affection for others. Anyone who campaigns for a dominant culture in Germany and demands immigrants to abandon the customs of their home condones the fact that either/or doesn’t matter. According to Dardane, a sense of belonging is not created by strict rules, but by flowing transformations.
Asal Dardan: “Reflections of Burberry”. Hoffmann and Campe Verlag, Hamburg 2021. 193 pp., Hardcover, €22.
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