Ein Roman von
Ein Roman von
Der 2. Roman des schweizerisch-britischen Romanciers Rudolph Bader ist nun auch auf Deutsch erhältlich!
Manfred wächst im Deutschland der 1920er und 1930er Jahre auf und wird, ohne sich dessen bewusst zu sein, in den Bann der Nazi-Propaganda gezogen. Nach dem Krieg ändert er seinen Namen und schafft sich eine neue Existenz mit Beruf und Familie, zunächst in den USA, später in England. Während seine Freunde und seine Familie nichts von seinem früheren Leben während des Krieges ahnen, beginnen sich seine Tochter Nora und sein Enkel Andrew, die beide an der Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts interessiert sind, mit der Vergangenheit ihres Vaters bzw. Großvaters zu beschäftigen, bis sie schließlich dessen dunkles Geheimnis aufspüren.
Wie weit geht moralische Verantwortung? Kann eine übergroße Schuld jemals in Dostojewskis Sinn gesühnt werden? Gibt es eine Möglichkeit der Wiedergutmachung durch nachfolgende Generationen? Ist es möglich, fundamentalen politischen Fehlentwicklungen frühzeitig genug zu widerstehen? Können wir aus einer kritischen Auseinandersetzung mit dem Faschismus der 1930er Jahre Lehren für den Umgang mit dem wieder aufkeimenden morbiden Nationalismus und dem zunehmenden Rassismus von heute ziehen?
Eine ergreifende und beunruhigende Familiensaga über fast 100 Jahre und drei Generationen, die den Leser auch nach der Lektüre noch lange beschäftigt und zum Nachdenken anregt.
„Ein hervorragend recherchierter und
spannend geschriebener Roman…,
eine Pflichtlektüre, insbesondere –
aber nicht nur – für jüngere Leser.“
(Fritz Grau auf Amazon)
„Wie alle großen Romane so fordert
auch dieser die Leserschaft heraus,
um gut nachzudenken.“
(Dr. Geoffrey Davis)
Aus dem Englischen übersetzt von Heide Fruth-Sachs
Rudolph Bader, Notlügen (White Lies, 2018)
Die Unterteilung des vom schweizerisch-britischen Autor Rudolph Bader verfassten englischen Romans Notlügen(White Lies) in fünf grössere Teile, die sich jeweils unterschiedlicher Themen und Perspektiven annehmen, scheint mir äusserst gelungen und schafft eine Leserfreundlichkeit. Zudem erlaubt es dem Leser, das gleiche Thema in unterschiedlichen historisch-interpretatorischen Ausprägungen kennen zu lernen.
Der erste Teil hat mich extrem angesprochen und von Anfang an in den Bann gezogen. Die faszinierend menschlich erzählte Diegese lässt die gefühlte Normalität trotz politischer Umwälzungen aufleben. Es findet sich keine stereotype Welt und voreingenommene oder reduzierte Charakterisierung der Figuren wie in anderen Werken, die das gleiche Zeitalter behandeln (Jugend ohne Gott oder Der Junge im gestreiften Pyjama). Gerade diese zwischenmenschlichen Passagen in White Lies, vor allem die Begegnung von Manfred und Anna sowie die Entwicklung derer Beziehung sind sehr berührend und zeigen eine zutiefst menschliche Seite eines jungen Mannes. Trotz Nazihintergrund weckt gerade diese menschliche Verletzlichkeit und Hilflosigkeit abseits der politischen Gesinnung Empathie und hält dem Leser einen Spiegel der direkten Konfrontation vor Augen. Goethe würde wohl sagen: «Nicht allein das Angeborene, sondern auch das Erworbene ist der Mensch.»
Die bewusst gewählten Zeitsprünge, vor allem das Offenlassen von Manfreds eigentlicher Arbeit während des Zweiten Weltkriegs, lassen den Leser wie auch Manfreds Familie im Unklaren: ein genialer schriftstellerischer Schachzug. Denn obwohl die Deutsche Frage mit dem Umgang der Schuld (Verschweigen, Ignorieren, Verleugnen) den Leser direkt konfrontiert, bleibt diesem die extreme Empathie mit den Figuren, der Tochter und dem Enkel, die das Vergangene aufdecken wollen.
Der vierte Teil, in Tagebuchform gehalten, gibt nebst einer Variation der Erzählweise die Möglichkeit einer qualitativ anderen Identifikation mit den Figuren. Gerade die im ersten Teil in der Figur Annas angelegte Spannung löst sich in diesem Teil gekonnt auf. So bleibt eine bewusste Auseinandersetzung mit der Schuldfrage durch die tagebuchartige Wiedergabe nicht aus. Als Leser müssen die Aufzeichnungen der Tochter schon nur aus Neugier zu Ende gelesen werden, und gleichzeitig gelingt es dem Autor, worin viele andere Autoren mit ähnlichen Themen scheitern: eine bewusste individuelle Auseinandersetzung mit der Schuldfrage.
Der Schluss bricht mit der Tradition des Schweigens auf zweierlei Art: Konfrontation mit der Vergangenheit und Portierung in die Gegenwart. So sind in diesem Teil politisch brisante Themen zu finden, die an Aktualität nicht zu überbieten sind. Die zahlreichen intertextuellen Bezüge, insbesondere die Schuld in der Literatur, das hohe Sprachniveau und die akademischen Diskussionen der beiden Freunde Andrew und David bereichern das ohnehin gelungene Buch ungemein.
Elvira Schneider, 19. Juni 2019
Rudolph Bader, White Lies (2018)
Good Evening everyone
It is an honour and a pleasure for me to return to the Towner Art Gallery here in Eastbourne to take part in the launching of Rudolf Bader’s second novel, White Lies. [As we have heard,Rudolph’s first venture into fiction, The Prison of Perspective, was published in 2010 and launched here and in Switzerland. Until that year he had been known to me primarily as an academic, specializing in the field of postcolonial literature in English and focusing particularly on Australian and Canadian writing.]
I’m glad to see that the considerable success of his first work of fiction has now encouraged him to embark on a second novel, which I think it is fair to say is an even more ambitious undertaking than its predecessor.
White Lies is a fictional family chronicle which covers a period of almost 100 years from the 1920s to the present, from the rise of National Socialism in Germany to the rise of UKIP in Britain. It constitutes an exercise in German history which will prove enlightening for English and German readers alike. Through the lives of successive generations of a German family both inside the country and in Britain, the novel seeks to re-examine Germans’ war experience and to trace the impact of such experience on individuals and on families.There are basically two strands to the family history: the one concerns the brothers Thomas and Manfred Weidmann, who grow up in Gera in the Eastern part of Germany before the war; the other tells the story of Nora Woolf, whose father is German and who leaves the US at the age of 13 with her parents to settle in England after the war. And it is not immediately apparent how these narratives relate.
Initially the narrative focus lies largely on Manfred, whom we first encounter as a young child in Gera and whom we last see as an old man, who has long since become a grandfather and is suffering from dementia, living in an Eastbourne care home.
Manfred’s story, like that of numerous Germans of his generation, is full of gaps. At its core lies the secret of what he may have done ̶ or did not do ̶ during the Second World War. Through the unravelling of the unknown in Manfred’s biography, the novel engages with the historical, political, and above all the moral legacies of German history from a contemporary perspective. Germans would no doubt describe it as a contribution to Vergangenheitsbewältigung, that is as a coming to terms with and an understanding of the past.
I imagine that the reception of the book might perhaps be rather different when viewed from Germany than when read in Britain.
All of us who have lived in Germany over the last fifty years will at some time have encountered the kind of issues the novel deals with ̶ through press reports, through their familyhistory, or through their own experience.
In my case for example, I have lived and worked in both East and West Germany. Indeed, some minor episodes of my own biography figure in the Stasi files. I wrote my doctoral thesis under the supervision of a highly regarded professor of German literature, who at the time of the student revolts in the late 1960s held the post of Vice-Chancellor of the University and was regarded as a great liberal, but who in later years was revealed to have been a member of the SS, a fact which he had concealed for decades through many devious measures, which included remarrying his wife under an assumed name. Rudolph’s novel several times makes mention of the well-known case of Hans Filbinger, who worked as a judge under the Nazis, but later rose to become president of the State of Baden-Württemberg. For someone like me then, the novel holds particular interest, since it raises all manner of pertinent issues about German society past and present, not to mention personal memories of living in postwar Germany.
For the English reader, on the other hand, the novel offers the opportunity to engage with aspects of German history which are not perhaps sufficiently well known here. Certainly, the author repeatedly makes the point, especially in view of the worrying rise of populism in several European countries and in the US, that we need to know our history if we wish to combat the recurrence of right-wing ideologies. He thus seeks to draw out the lessons of history both at the personal level and for society as a whole.
The action of the novel is set at various locations in Germany, Switzerland and Britain. It begins at Gera, a town in Thüringen in the eastern part of Germany, which since the reunification of the country has lost a third of its inhabitants to the West and voted heavily in favour of the radical right-wing AFD (Alternative for Germany/Alternative für Deutschland) at the last election, but which ̶ fortunately ̶ managed to avoid the fate of becoming the first town in the country with a far-right AFD mayor. Later sections of the novel are set in Newcastle upon Tyne, Horsham, and, as you know, Eastbourne.
Unfortunately I know very little about Eastbourne, although I did grow up in an English seaside resort, so that I can appreciate the way the author captures a sense of place here.There is a good deal of local colour in the book. Local readers will, for instance, no doubt recognize pubs like The Pilot Inn and The Dolphin which provide occasional settings for meetings. I feel rather tempted to visit some of them myself. Perhaps we could do a walk through Eastbourne, as one can through Dublin where one is encouraged along the way to sample some of the many pubs that figure in Joyce’s novelUlysses.
An interesting feature of the novel is the way in which the passage of time is marked by marginal references which remind the reader of the political background and provide some context for the events described in the book. Among these are the burning of the German parliament, the Reichstag, in 1933; the attacks on Jewish property, shops and synagogues, the Kristallnacht, in 1938; the invasion of Poland, which began the Second World War, in 1939; the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943; the Russian occupation of Thüringen in 1945 after the Americans had been in control of the region for only 80 days; Chancellor Willi Brandt’s speech initiating a new policy towards Eastern Europe, known as theOstpolitik, in 1972; the Falklands War in 1982; the miners’ strike in the UK of 1984-85; the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986; the unexpected exodus of East German citizens to the West via Hungary and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989; and finally the inauguration of President Obama in 2009. Such references are important since the novel aspires to demonstrate how personal lives are determined by and interwoven with political developments.
There are many instances of this in the book, which traces the undermining of German society by the Nazi Party and the encroachment of its ideology on the lives of ordinary people very well. Some of the most telling instances of this are to be found in the opening section in which the rise of the NSDAP, the Nazi Party, is seen through the eyes of the two brothers, Manfred and Thomas, who are too young to understand the importance of what they are witnessing and who thus frequently fall victim to the propaganda which assails them from all sides. Their school teachers, for example, quickly fall in line with Nazi ideology, expatiate on the so-called “Jewish conspiracy”, and fill their English language classes with anti-British invective. As children the boys have to join Nazi youth organizations and later the party itself.
The novel is particularly good at tracing evolving political attitudes across the generations. Old Mr Weidmann, the owner of the finest delicatessen in Gera, for instance first joins the Party out of concern for his business, then leaves again horrified by the anti-Semitic speeches which by implication impugn some of his best customers. Jews he has always considered to be an essential part of German culture. Meanwhile his sons gradually become enamoured of the idea of a new Germany widely propagated by the Nazis. They progress from a lack of understanding to enthusiastic involvement.
After the war too, different political positions and attitudes to the immediate past will become apparent as family members wrestle with their own past history.
Like all good novels this one challenges the reader to do some thinking. Its structure is fairly complex. The narrative perspective shifts several times; there are some gaps in the historical account; there is a name change which casts doubt on a central character’s identity; there are several false trails and twists in the plot; and there are a number of unresolved questions along the way. Among the latter are the following: what became of the two brothers at Gera after they joined the Nazi Party? What did they experience during the war? Who was the father of Anna’s child? Why was Nora’s father being blackmailed? What was the reason for his ostensible business trips to Germany postwar? What will Nora’s secret diary of her own researches in Germany reveal, when she eventually passes it on to her son Andrew? To all of which may be added the central conundrum concerning the gap in Nora’s father’s biography. He holds pacifist views, adopts liberal attitudes, and repeatedly warns against the dangers of nationalism and racism. But he sometimes lets slip that he is not proud of what was done in the war, and later as an old man, seems plagued by his memories. Throughout most of the novel the gap in his biography remains unexplained. Within the family there is growing speculation about his unknown activities during the war, and family members are divided as to whether one should even try to find the truth or not. All of these factors contribute to the suspense which informs the novel from the first page and which gathers pace until the end.
White Lies, as its title implies, explores the lies people invent to explain away their activities during wartime, the lies politicians tell to get elected, and also in the present-day context the kind of populist lies told in Britain during the Brexit campaign. It raises moral questions about personal motivation, about the need to know our history, and above all, to apply the lessons of the past. Particularly through debates between Andrew and his friend Dave it investigates the moral standards of contemporary society in the light of past experience. It raises the issue of war guilt and asks in terms of one family’s experience what responsibility its members may bear for the sins of the older generation. And it reminds us that there will always be those who argue against excavating the past and proceed to repeat its errors. Andrew’s wife Rebecca, for instance, separates from him, denies the lessons of the past, and joins UKIP; while Andrew decides to try and atone for what his grandfather may have done through working for development aid in Africa. He is the one who learns the necessary lessons.
I have perhaps given the impression that White Lies is a novel which concerns itself almost exclusively with issues of political history. In concluding, therefore, I should add that it has a great deal else to offer. Rudolph Bader is equally interested in exploring personal relationships, the incipient sexuality of young people, and the intergenerational problems of fragmented families. In my view, however, his real contribution in this novel is his exploration of what inspires the young Nora to pursue her own life’s journey, “real world history within her own family.”
Prof. Dr. Geoffrey Davis,
In his well-researched and well-written new novel White Lies, Rudolph Bader tells an absolutely thrilling story about the history of a German/American/English family from the nineteen-twenties down to the present day.
One main topic of the book is the unveiling of Manfed Weidmann’s entanglement with the crimes of the Nazi SS during the Second World War, as it is gradually discovered by his daughter. Even if it’s not possible for her to find out the exact details of her father’s dark history, she gets a fair ideaabout how Manfed Weidmann got more and more deeply involved with the terror regime of National Socialism and the SS, and about crimes he probably committed.
The other main topic of the book is the question of the significance of Manfred Weidmann’s biography for us today: Which conclusions can we draw personally in times which are becoming more and more similar to the pre-Nazi era, the so-called Weimar Republic. How should we act as politically responsible and counscious citizens in times of populist leaders like Trump, Putin, Erdoğan, Orbán and co, in times of growing nationalism and chauvinism all over the world? Howto sustain a free society in which nobody is discriminated on the grounds of ethnicity, skin colour, sexual orientation, religion etc?
According to the dictum of the Spanish philosopher George Santayana that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, Bader’s rewarding novel is an absolute “must-read”, especially (but not only) for younger readers, for whom the Nazi era is a closed and nearly forgottenchapter in the history-books. Nothing is more wrong and more dangerous than that! And let’s remember the statement of Bertolt Brecht in his drama The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui:“The womb he crawled from is still going strong.”