Joining in with the Reconstruction of Confidence
Simone Hirth’s debut novel Lied über die geeignete Stelle für eine Notunterkunft is a particularly eye-catching contribution
It’s a wonderful book. A green book. An unusual photo of the author. It’s anything but a conventional book title. An unusual front cover (with pictures of wall plugs, pliers, a hand drill, brick, screws and inside the chapters are then nailed together). But that’s enough of the formalities. Let’s carry on with the review!
The heroine is in her mid-twenties; the family home has been destroyed, all life plans have collapsed and the focus is on setting up some temporary emergency accommodation and succeeding with the reconstruction. The loss of family heritage leads to dropping out and a temporary phase of self-sufficiency. However, the goal is to achieve some form of reintegration into society – by reliance on all linguistic means. Or rather, by different linguistic means than the usual ones.
The first person absorbs voices. The first person – the butcher’s daughter and shoemaker’s lover– absorbs voices from the surroundings; the first person makes interesting observations (about handcart deliveries and rules for allotment plots), it has a weakness for words (the company rat, emergency hammer, hobs and their value, rosehips and geraniums of all things), it indulges in solitary singing (a kind of anti-isolationist sound, then later with info centre blues), it plays with the wreckage of language, has to process petty misdemeanours at the DIY store (theft of seeds and cement and so forth), suffers from an immense loss of everyday routine but a blossoming fantasy (insects instead of social security to be carried into the nest) and intensive dream sequences.
Formally, the achievement is convincing. It is a model example of deconstruction on all levels. Fragments are presented: prayer variations, inserted facts about fungi, lists, speeches to the wall, onomatopoeia (“drridridrüh”) and romantic hymns and songs. Unworldliness is the programme; a critique of civilisation and progress, or rather, of the status quo underpins the novel’s foundations.
As a novel house this book has excellent foundations and is anything but emergency accommodation. Rather, it is an eccentric, bold yet solid construction with plenty of windows and doors (and a good view of the sky). Counteracting business study theories and the attitude in cases of emergency also develops a surprisingly comic side. This novel is generally surprising with its language, its form and its intent. It is a new style of ruins literature: full of relish, adventurous and yet precise. The form consolidates the content. And it’s highly recommended!
By Markus Köhle
Tranlated by Suzanne Kirkbright
Simone Hirth, LIED ÜBER DIE GEEIGNETE STELLE FÜR EINE NOTUNTERKUNFT. Kremayr & Scheriau Vienna, 2016.