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Book of the week - Here I am by Jonathan Safran Foer

"When the destruction of Israel commenced, Isaac Bloch was weighing, wether to kill himself or move to the Jewish Home. He had lived in an apartment with books touching the ceilings, the rugs thick enough to hide dice; then in a room and half with dirt floors; on forest floors, under unconcerned stars; under the floorboards of a Christian who, half a world and three-quarters of a century away, would have a tree planted to commemorate his righteousness; in a hole for so many days his knees would never fully unbend; among Gypsies and partisans and half-decent Poles; in transit, refugee, and displaced persons camps; ...."

Here I am is, in short, a book about a marriage in a crisis, the Holocaust and its aftermath to jewish families or what is left of them (some in the US, some in Israel, some wherever, most dead)
"German horticulturalists had pruned Isaac's family tree all the way back to the Galacian soil. But with luck and intuition and no help from above, he had transplanted its roots into the sidewalks of Washington,..."
Here I AmJews in the USA, the demands of jewish life in general, and Israel, is Israel the homeland of the Jews or just something, they stole, what does it mean to Jews in America? What is the difference between Jews in America and Jews in Israel? This seems to be a key question in Jonathan Safran Foers first novel after 10 years. For me, the key question, actually, is: Am I here? Meaning: am I truly present in my own life, my own reality? Since it happens, that Safran Foer is jewish, it makes perfect sense, to link this question to the jewish identiy, which is difficult to define. Is it the rituals? Is it the past, the family, the homeland or the constant threat and danger? Jacob, Isaaks grandson, is the one , whose marriage is dissolving, in my eyes as a consequence of his never fully being present in it. So, conseqently, since Safran Foer is a daring writer, Here I am is also a book about the near destruction of Israel and the region through an earthquake, so, unevitably it is a book about politics, about war, and human nature, both in private and in public. Who reacts how to the possibility to eliminate Israel?
The private has always been connected to basically world politics and history in his books. Last but not least, it is a book about family, what to do with dogs, who poo in the house, great-grandfathers, who do not want to move into a jewish home for the elderly, and what to do with a teenage son, who might have or might not have written the n ... and other words not acceptable on a sheet of paper found by his teacher and in general does not want a bar mitzvah, which his parents very much want him to have, (to make clear, that they are jewish!) for which even the cousins from Israel come flying in. The ones, who in Jacobs eyes, might have a real life, since they have to go to war, they were in combat, they had real adventures.

So, you might wonder, if it can be possible, to put all this ( and more, sorry to add that) into one novel. But then you remember, this is Jonathan Safran Foer, we are talking, the guy, who already has put 9/11, Hiroshima and the bombing of Dresden into one novel and made perfect sense of a connection, you always sensed was there. After reading this, you thought, he might be a philosopher (he, btw, actually has a degree in philosophy), because he is always so willing, and also capable, to see the whole, not just a tiny portion of what is going on. So for me, this book is also about the here and now. It is a reflection of everything going on in a world, that is, without the earthquake, still pretty shaken. He just explores another extreme, he explores, how extreme the world would leave the jewish people alone, if it came to an extreme case. Just as alone, as they leave the syrian people right now? No, probably even more alone, because there is anti-semitism everywhere. It also explores, how the jewish people would react to this.
Here I am is also a book about how to be, or not be, truly engaged and present in your own life.
Jacob, the husband, the father, the son, the grandson, is very much not present in his life. He is always sort of waiting for the real, the interesting, the true life to start. In that, he reminds me of myself, but also of many many people I know. Missing your own life, while waiting for the big one, which is meant for you and about to start any moment.
Here I am is hilariously funny, its dialogues are like Woody Allens with Diane Keaton in the old and really brilliant movies, only better!
The ideas are jumping at the reader like a firework. Which always has been a quality in Safran Foers writing. Which makes the book, like all his books, highly entertaining. Sometimes I kept reading, though I was tired and it was late, just because I could not get enough of his language, his words, his brilliant, jewellike sentences. One truth after the other, one beautiful observation after the other.
"We read Hamlet in school this year, and everybody knows the whole "To be or not to be" business, and we talked about it for like three consecutive classes - the choice between life and death, action and reflection, whatever and whatever. .... And that got me thinking that also maybe one doesn't have to exactly choose. "To be or not to be. That is the question" To be and not to be. That is the answer."

(c) Susanne Becker


Beliebte Texte

Writing at the Fundacion Valparaiso in Mojacar, Spain

„…and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.“ Mary Oliver

I am home from my first writing residency with other artists. In Herekeke, three years ago, I was alone with Miss Lilly and my endlessly talkative mind. There were also the mesa, the sunsets, the New Mexico sky, the silence and wonderful Peggy Chan, who came by once a day. She offers this perfect place for artists, and I will be forever grateful to her. The conversations we had, resonate until today within me. It was the most fantastic time, I was given there, and the more my time in Spain approached, I pondered second thoughts: Should I go? Could I have a time like in Herekeke somewhere else, with other people? It seemed unlikely.
When I left the airport in Almeria with my rental car, I was stunned to find, that the andalusian landscape is so much like New Mexico. Even better, because, it has an ocean too. I drove to Mojacar and to the FundacionValparaiso and I could n…

Could I hold you in my silence

Could I hold you in my silence, where words no longer mean inner certainty, mean anything.
It is this moment, caught in midair. What is, is good & the only gift, we can offer each other, is to let go of every word - a prison, unable to catch the inner landscape, vast like the mesa, the ocean.
A million words can never say, what I want to tell you. Can never say, what I want to tell you.

(c) Susanne Becker

Anke Stelling, Schäfchen im Trockenen

"Wir sind Opfer. Und unseres Glückes Schmied! Wir machen uns gut in egal welcher Kulisse, sind die Protagonisten unseres Lebens."

Anke Stellings neues Buch Schäfchen im Trockenen habe ich verschlungen. Es ist großartig geschrieben und mit seiner Handlung so nah am Leben dran, wie man es selten findet, an dem Hier und Jetzt von mir und vielen meiner Freunde, die mit Kindern und der existentiellen Unsicherheit mitten in Berlin, mitten in einer großen Stadt in Europa leben, wo Neoliberalismus und Kapitalismus die Werte vorgeben und man, plant man schlecht, auch sehr leicht unter die Räder kommen kann. Vielleicht vor allen Dingen dann, wenn man sich dem Leben mit Chuzpe und offenen Armen, voller Vertrauen, ein wenig ausliefert. Hier springe ich vom Zehnmeterbrett, mach' mit mir, was Du willst, Du verrücktes Leben!
Resi ist Schriftstellerin. Sie lebt mit ihrer Familie in Berlin und hat ein Buch über ihre Freunde geschrieben, die im Rahmen einer Baugruppe ein tolles eigenes Hau…

what i learn here, qué aprendo yo aqui, was ich hier lerne (a poem, una poema, ein Gedicht))

what i learn here 

language is my playground
but also:
i learn beyond language
no words needed
words can be a wall

everything is a poem
a piece of green glass
age is a myth
a rock
a snail shell
my face is your face
my face is a cloud
is a poem
could i put a coat
of my words around you
it would be a poem

what i find here
now i am very clear
the object of art is freedom
the subject too

never for money
always for love
can we share this?
yes: because poetry
is in everything

qué aprendo yo aquí

la lenguaje es mi patio de recreo
pero tambien:
aprendo más allá de lenguaje
mis palabras no son necesarias
palabras como un muro

todo es un poema
un vidrio roto verde
la edad es un mito
una piedra
una concha de caracol
mi cara es tu cara
mi cara es una nube
es un poema
yo me vesti con mis palabras
como un abrigo
sería un poema

qué me encuentro aquí
ahora soy muy clara
el objeto de arte es libertad
el sujeto tambien

nunca por dinero
siempre por amor
podemos compartir eso?
si, porque la poesia
esta in…


Eine Zeitfalte insgesamt, Bruchteil des Sommers, auf dem Wasser verbracht, umgeben von Freundschaft, geschwommen in dem milden Wohlwollen des sich Kennens seit ewig. Nichts kann einen mehr aneinander aus der Fassung bringen. Man hat alles schon gesehen, bis auf den Eisvogel, der mit einem lauten Kreischen zwischen den Bäumen eintaucht.
Wo jeder er selbst sein kann, ohne Rückspiegel, ohne Notbremse.
Die Kinder springen vom Dach, in die Tiefe eines neuen Sees, kopfüber, täglich den Wagemut bestätigend, der eine Freundschaft ermöglicht, die alle Zeitfalten entlang gedauert hat. 
(c) Susanne Becker

Hermann Hesse - Das Glasperlenspiel

Es gab Momente, da verstand ich nichts und wollte das Buch einfach beiseite legen.
Das Buch! Das Glasperlenspiel von Hermann Hesse, sein letzter und umfangreichster Roman, sein Alterswerk, erschienen 1943, in zwei Bänden (ja, das Buch ist sehr dick!). Es lag in meinem Stapel ungelesener Bücher, seitdem ich circa 20 war. Ich habe noch die alte, dunkelgrüne Suhrkamp Ausgabe. Gekauft in einer Buchhandlung am Opladener Markt, die es schon lange nicht mehr gibt. Begonnen habe ich das Buch gefühlt zehnmal, und immer wieder beiseite gelegt, weil ich einfach nichts verstand. Einmal bin ich bis Seite 100 gekommen, weiter nie. Ich beschloss dann, dass man vermutlich doch alt sein müsste, um es zu verstehen, Alterswerk eben! Jetzt bin ich einigermaßen alt und ich kann den Erfolg vermelden: Diesmal hab ichs geschafft. Ich bin durch!

„Versenkung und Weisheit waren gute, waren edle Dinge, aber es schien, sie gediehen nur abseits, am Rande des Lebens, und wer im Strom des Lebens schwamm und mit sein…