Two adult brothers sit side by side in the room of one and read science fiction. It is war, January 1944, a village in the Eifel. "Star driver" wants to be the one, Alfons, sometime after the war. Now he is rehearsing for this great time afterwards. He is fighter pilot, he has already celebrated numerous kills, many, many dead opponents, he is highly decorated, is considered a war hero. He does not care about politics, he says.
The other, Egidius, has quite different hopes for himself in these science fiction novels: stay on the ground. Breed bees. Women love. Read books. And somehow stay alive. He suffers from epilepsy. Actually a death sentence in the Nazi era. "Unworthiness" is the name of a life. Lucky for Egidius, that his brother is an aviator. This protects him from access to power for a while.
Fritz-Peter Linden / CH Beck
Writer Norbert Scheuer has written a novel of nature and society
Norbert Scheuer has been writing novels about the Eifel for many years. The area around the town of Kall, the people there, the stones, the landscape. Like so many German writers, he elevates his seemingly remote region to the center of his writing. And it's not all about the Eifel, which he describes, it's possibilities of life and reading.
Like now in his new book, which is on the shortlist for the German Book Prize, in which the brothers read in the future books and find in it so different lifestyles. Alfons, the aviator, always comes by for a short time, mostly appearing only as a letter writer. He flies, he kills, he must not write where and when he flies and fights. But he sends medicines that keep the sick brother alive.
The noise of the war can not affect the bees
The brother, Egidius, is at the center of the novel. He was a teacher, was released due to his illness, explores the ancient history of his family. He was always the quieter, more unfit of the brothers. Only in one was he ahead of Alfons: The bees her father breeds like him. And he likes the bees. His brother, who fears no death and no adversary, is afraid of them. This gives Egidius an advantage in the unequal brotherly struggle: he is close to the father, who loves his bee colonies with passion, through this common passion.
Norbert Scheuer has written a novel about nature and society. We learn a lot about bees, queens, formation flights, harmony and beauty. "Maybe it's just the beauty of the world, maybe bees have a sense for them, even their origin," the novel says. Their world is the counterworld: "The noise of the attacks does not seem to bother the bees, they live in another, it seems, peaceful world, they are not interested in the war."
Also for selfish motives one can do good
Sometimes the novel balances on the kitsch border. Whenever it seems so finely ordered: here are the friendly bees, the honey, the beauty, the innocence. There: war, Nazis, noise. Here the delicate, striped peace pilots, there the hard, gray fighter pilots. Since the readers do not have much room for decision.
Once, when the hero does not protect a protégé entrusted to him and her newly born baby well enough, the baby dies and shortly after the bees "suddenly attack" him, he also does not know why - because one is about to exaggerate the book Set aside natural mysticism and bee enthusiasm. But Scheuer will catch us again.
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Because even his hero and bee friend not only has upright motives. He smuggles Jews across the border into Belgium, but he does it mainly to make money. For his medication. This Egidius is a quite selfish, romantic beneficiary of the world situation. The women of the village lie almost at his feet. Probably not first and foremost because he is such a dazzling bee-entertainer, but because the husbands are all at war. Or carry Nazi uniforms around the world. Or are dead. Egidius is on hand and sometimes has trouble fulfilling his erotic obligations.
There are no resistance fighters here. Rather pragmatists and scoffers, murderers and egoists, even for selfish motives one can obviously do good. Norbert Scheuer has written an idiosyncratic, insistent social novel on the edge of the world with "Winter Bees". He has designed a selfish, sick, lovesick society there. For one half. On the other half a kind of ideal society: This is the society novel of the bees. Good guys, pure hearts, perfect world on the fly.