Superheldinnen (Barbi Marković)

Superheldinnen [translates as Superheroines] is a novel by Barbi Marković:
Finished on: 20.3.2018
[Here’s my review of the stage adaptation.]

Every Saturday, three women come together in a Viennese café to pool their powers and send good vibes to the people who deserve and need them. They have strict rules for that which means that they’re able to keep working together, even though they couldn’t be any more different. In fact, the only things they seem to have in common are that none of them were born in Austria, and that they all have powers. But on this particular Saturday, all three of them have some kind of deviation from their usual procedure in mind.

Superheldinnen is an ambitious novel that captured my attention. Albeit it not succesful in everything that it attempts, it is an enjoyable read that has interesting things to say.

I saw the stage adaptation a while ago and it piqued my interest, so I decided to read the novel as well. I usually try to read novels before seeing their adaptations on stage or film, but I didn’t mind to have it the other way round in this case because I found the novel a lot more challenging than the play. This way, I got an easier introduction into the story and characters and could focus more on the prose.

The novel is filled with descriptions of the city that also include ad slogans. On the one hand, I thought this was a very clever idea, pointing to the fact that ads really are ubiquitous in cities and also nicely tying in with a general criticism of neoliberalism that is a constant undercurrent of the novel. That these slogans get repetitive and exhausting is, I assume, quite by design. On the other hand, they are repetitive and exhausting and I found myself skimming these passages a lot; or reading them without actually taking in any kind of content.

Generally speaking, Superheldinnen wasn’t always easy to read and I often had to consciously remind myself to focus to stick with it. It’s work to read the book. But I would say that the characters and the setting and the mentioned criticism of neoliberalism are good and entertaining enough to make the work worth it.

I think my favorite part was the story with the “rotziges Kind” (probably best translated as snotty child). It’s rare that I can single out one part of a book as such a clear favorite, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the book wasn’t good.

I also particularly liked Mascha and identified a lot with her. She is described as pretty much perfect, so I can know ponder whether my identification with her is because of that description (hello, ego!) or despite it. (Of course, she isn’t quite as perfect as it may appear at first.) Either way, I liked her a little better than the other two, though I did like all three of them and enjoyed their interaction.

All of this makes Superheldinnen well worth checking out – both on stage and on the page.

Summarizing: Interesting (in the good sense).

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