June 28, 2022

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Heinz Strenk: "Summer in Niendorf" - a man in crisis

Heinz Strenk: “Summer in Niendorf” – a man in crisis

Every few years, Heinz Strunk publishes different versions of the same story with great success: A White Man in Crisis. He no longer finds his way in society, his body is deteriorating, and it is also difficult with women.

It becomes particularly harsh in his new novel, “Ein Sommer in Niendorf.” Wealthy lawyer Dr. George Roth wants to use the three months of vacation that resulted from his job change to tackle his family’s history in a non-fiction narrative book. To do this, rent an apartment on the Baltic Sea. Here, he hopes, he will be able to focus on his work; In the end, he is at peace. But it is precisely this calm that becomes a problem: Faced with his own history and loneliness, George Roth increasingly turns to himself.

From brake fun to disgust

From the beginning of the novel, Ruth was a loath to humans, a “cheerful merchant in fancy clothes” with a penchant for bingeing and alcoholism. Now, during his sabbatical, he drops one bourgeois behavior after another and becomes as creepy as ever. The process is speeded up by Marcus Breda, the property’s alcoholic owner, who appears fatally as an unchecked Roth lookalike.

Thus, Heinz Strinck clearly based his novel “Where is Somer in Niendorf” on Thomas Mann’s novel “Der Todd in Venice” and gave his stereotypical story about masculinity an artistic touch: just as Gustav Aschenbach in Venice became the young man he was in the prime of his life. Reiss still despised his life, though he had already carried it within himself, the bourgeois D. Ruth’s disgust for children.

Contempt for women’s bodies

However, Strenk’s novel lacks the intellectual depth and ironic ambiguity that characterizes Thomas Mann’s novel. Everything in “Ein Sommer in Niendorf” has a clarity that can no longer be sarcastically subverted, right down to the language that is often limited to a non-aesthetic narrative.

Breda, for example, is described as “a crooked, long loafer with a plait, straw-like hair, parchment skin, thin little arms and legs, and the backs of a chronic alcoholic.”

In this novel, the humor arises primarily from the point of view of contempt for the physicality of the characters. This view of a man’s decomposing body is a stereotype here for such a story about men in crisis as the female characters in the novel.

Understanding for men in crises

However, one of these physically repulsive women is the sanctuary that Ruth can enter into his uncertain masculinity, as she is able to satisfy him sexually and show him a mother’s care. The man’s crisis is thus alleviated by re-establishing traditional gender roles.

The fact that such ready-made literary goods are taken as seriously as art and social criticism says something about their reception: it is the character of a white man in crisis that is taken seriously as a seismograph for social problems. Shows sympathy for him – on the other hand, his victims are seen as attachments, specialized subjects.