Already in his most recent titles Martin Walser addressed issues of religiosity and theology. His new book, A Legend, tells of one case: the development of Sirte Zürn into a fanatical and wondrous young woman who teaches a raven to speak and sing (hymns), undergoes a martyrdom and, according to her father's and a teacher's conviction, the criteria fulfilled a canonization.
Zürn? Walser readers remember: Gottlieb Zürn is known from his earlier novels "The Hunt" (1968), "The Swan House" (1980) and "Moment of Love" (2004). The estate agent and engineer in the armaments industry idolizes his daughter drifting off into a religious parallel world and finds in his lodger, the teacher Anton Schweiger, the historian of the strange oddities.
In contrast to his name, Schweiger becomes a talkative narrator; he has fallen into the girl of thirteen, at the end of the book a good twenty years, and yes, hearing, not at all free from old-fashioned hints, he confesses that he has "longing after this girl like nothing else ".
Ulf Mauder / DPA
And Sirte, who writes to the "so-called" chamberlain Anton Schweiger rather than talking to her, states: "The less you ask of me, the less I live, I dream of doing everything for you."
But Schweiger remains an observer and witnesses unsavory scenes in the Zürn household. The father rapes and beats his wife, Sirtes sister Karla plays a minor role, and from Sirte, who disappears and reappears again and again, it is said that she lacked the sense of smell.
She wants to have met Jesus, who has put a golden ring on her little finger. While specialists diagnose an "Anoxeria mentalis et nervosa", or even a schizophrenic psychosis, Schweiger and Vater Zürn are embarking on the project of canonization.
It remains the legend reserved to focus on peculiarities and supposed special effects of the heroine or saints to leave their environment in the fog of the near, to guide the readers on wood and byways.
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12.11.2019, 16:01 clock
Girl Life: or The Canonization.
Rowohlt book publisher
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The narrow ribbon of just 90 pages lacks anecdotes and ironic punch lines. But the Sirte narrative turns into a grotesquely fallen out of time story, in which Walser seems to arrive mainly on the letters and sentences of his title character, but they deliver sentences that can read confessionally: "My sentences are ropes on abysses. Respectively, they are also tightrope walkers performing their art on the ropes above the abyss ". Or: "Every dancer lags when he does not dance" and "Speech naturally leads to the creation of something like God ... So the supreme being that we have is language".
Write Sirte. But also reveals the fundamental poetology of the faithful author Martin Walser. He shuns the abyss as little as the theologizing of his and thus his own - not infrequently ironic - language artistry.