Für den Herrscher aus Übersee (translates to For the Emperor from Overseas) is the first novel by Teresa Präauer.
For the summer, two kids have to stay with their grandparents as their parents travel, sending post card after post card. The grandfather reads those post cards to them, or is it not so much reading as telling stories? In any case, he also tells them about the Japanese woman he met when he was a pilot and whose plane he repaired, and he criticizes their own attempts at building planes. And interwoven is another story about a pilot who leads her flock of birds South.
Für den Herrscher aus Übersee is nice, but a little too preoccupied with being meaningful and artsy, which in the end has the exact opposite effect of leaving it shallow.
At some point in German-language Literature (yes, with a capital-L), it must have been decided that quotation marks are completely unnecessary and uncool and that you just don’t need them. If you want to be a serious Writer (yes, with a capital-W), you better not use them at all. And I hate it, said she, it is absolute hell for readability. I mean, it’s not like it’s important to know who is talking right now. Is it?, asked he. I am not so sure, the narrator sighed.
Come on. I’m not saying that grammar shouldn’t change or that language isn’t evolving, but if I have to read paragraphs several times to understand who is talking when, it is not a good development. Unfortunately, Präauer doesn’t share my love for well-structured, understandable texts, or she just hates quotations marks. I don’t know what the reason is, fact is that there are none in her book. If it had been longer I probably wouldn’t have finished it, I was so annoyed by it.
There are also no names, but she handles that very well. I assume she did that to make her story more universal and less specifically bound, but that quest for universality just means that you never really connect with the characters or the story. In my experience, universality is best found in singularity. Without specifics, stories just become bland.
Maybe I would have felt differently if the grandfather had felt as enchanting to me as he apparently did to the kids. But he never did. I didn’t like him, he was creepy and an asshole. I wanted to get away from him, not listen to his stories. And that was more of a problem than the missing quotation marks.
Summarizing: It’s readable, but it’s certainly not a must-read.