At the end of Eva Sichelschmidt’s novel, when the family catastrophe is complete and her homelessness has finally been eradicated, the narrator of this story reads five words on the newsstand: “The wall has fallen.” “It has to be a metaphor,” she suspects.
It is a common theme in stories set in the late 1980s when the protagonist does not notice, or only briefly notices, that the border with the German Democratic Republic is suddenly open. But Eva Sechelschmidt’s “passing mouse,” as her West Berlin friends call her first-person narrator, has to swallow so much private grief, including the oppressive tragedy of losing her homeland, that world events matter little.
The weight of one’s assets affects the absurdity of daily life
Eva Sechelschmidt has already begun telling her family’s story in the sweeping, critically acclaimed novel Till One Weeps, a desolate and fateful Budenbrüxeade from the green edge of the Ruhr. In “Transitmaus,” the narrator, the daughter of a successful agricultural equipment manufacturer, is able to leave her parents’, or rather her father’s, deteriorating home, because her mother died early. A friend works in West Berlin, and with golf and a little money, she takes the crossing to the walled island.
Harassment by the harsh people’s police is part of the travel culture and memory of every West German who traveled to Kreuzberg or Schöneberg at that time. Eva Sichelschmidt tells the story of departure and escape from the point of view of this already troubled young girl. The father, a depressed, aging man, brings into the family the mysterious “family friend” Uwe, whose household is held together only by the tough housekeeper Mrs. Schmidt.
The daughter got her professional tools from the spiky seamstress Eleftheria Prodromides; She would later sew denim suits for the Schluvi family in Berlin, an innovation! The connection with the father becomes fragile once the daughter is at home in the social situation of the shabby bohemians of West Berlin. Her boyfriend becomes Falk, a man who somehow does crooked jobs. But what is wrong and what is wrong with Berlin in those years when every now and then you may need a non-binding job for the daily struggle for love, white wine and suitcases?
The narrator finds it difficult to come to terms with the risky, laissez-faire hedonism of her new friends; Life seems carefree and indifferent towards her, and the philosophies of the inner relationships of the beautiful Claudius, with whom the young woman falls in love. They are so tough that they eventually become so boring that he can’t give them up. For the absurdity of everyday life is weighed down by the gravity of one’s origins, ruined trust, and grief for the increasingly dilapidated house in the Ruhr, now ruled by a shrieking housekeeper with an unspecified name.
Added to this is the rejection of her love by her father, who initially pays her debts, but then falls into a state of drunkenness and dementia before spending his final hours in the locked ward of a psychiatric ward, which was popularly called a mental asylum at the time: “It’s too bad “You always take yourself with you wherever you go.” The burden of a somewhat desolate youth on the outskirts of the city, the indefinable memory of a French kiss from her father (was there something there or is memory playing tricks on her?), the gradual decline of the family business – all of this softens the tone of the narrative. In Eva Sichelschmidt’s story, she remains very frank, but at the same time weaves a dark thread into this rapid journey through the Saturnalia of the old Federal Republic.
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