Die Flut (Ulrike Schmitzer)

Die Flut is a novella by Ulrike Schmitzer. As far as I know, it hasn’t been translated, but the title means The Flood.
Finished on: 12.4.2018

Red mud has flooded the land, covering pretty much everything. Any human who touches it, turns black, as if coated in paint. Fearing an epidemic, that the blackness might spread, not knowing whether it has an effect apart from the change in looks, hard measures are being taken to control and quarantine the affected. In this situation, a farmer is looking for his grandson. And he has to hurry – not just because the situation becomes increasingly dangerous for everybody, but also because his skin has started to change and if anybody realizes that, he’ll be in big trouble.

Die Flut is a slim volume and gives us a taste of a very unusual worldbuilding and a generally interesting writer. It’s the first thing I read by Schmitzer, but I’ll be sure to check out what else she’s done.

I thought that the concept, the idea behind the world-building was really interesting and Schmitzer has chosen to tell it with fascinating and unusual language that is very much its own thing. Most impressive about it, is the fact that despite the rather minimalist narrative style (whether that’s because it’s a novella or it’s a novella and not a novel because of the minimalist style is a question I can’t answer), it is really evocative. I rarely see images when I read (so, I’m totally not the person for whom reading is like watching a movie inside your head), but in this case I saw a lot.

I am a little unsure about the entire “turning black” thing. I mean, fortunately it’s damn clear that they don’t turn into black people in the racial sense but that their skin turns actually the-color-black. If it had been about white people turning black (racial), the way it’s handled wouldn’t have fit at all and would have been problematic. But of course the connection between black (racial) and black (color) is there. It didn’t feel like Schmitzer wanted to say anything about race, so that angle left me a little uncomfortable.

But overall I felt mostly intrigued by Die Flut. I wouldn’t have minded to read more about the world in the novella, but since there isn’t more, I guess, I’ll have to check out what else Schmitzer has written. Especially since Austrian Science Fiction is rare enough.

Summarizing: definitely worth it.

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