Lisa’s Liebe (Marlene Streeruwitz)

Lisa’s Liebe (literally: Lisa’s Love, though the apostrophe in German is actually grammatically wrong) is a novel by Marlene Streeruwitz.
Finished on: 27.12.2018

Plot:
Teacher Lisa hands the town doctor Adrian a love letter before she leaves for her mountain retreat where she spends the holidays. She has never exchanged a word with Adrian, but she now waits desperately for a reply as the holidays stretch out before her, remembering her past relationships and taking a long distance writing class.

Lisa’s Liebe is a photo novel that plays with a certain genre of kinda nationalistic, romantic fiction. It has a lot of layers and is probably most appreciated by looking at all those layers and not “just” reading it. But even if you opt for reading and not analyzing, it is definitely a very good, interesting book.

The book cover that shows the photo of a young girl in front of a mountain, emulating a certain type of nostalgic, romantic, nationalistic genre fiction.

The concept behind Lisa’s Liebe could be played for laughs, for fun, but Marlene Streeruwitz makes it a very serious thing indeed. She – a highly acclaimed writer of literary fiction – chooses to take on basically the Austrian version of the cheapest of romance novels that are written just to entertain and makes highly complex literary fiction of it.

This is mirrored also in the language Streeruwitz uses: contrary to the usual purple prose of the kind of novels she emulates and turns on her head here, she writes in very short sentences thate give us barely any glimpse into the inner life of Lisa. Even though the story is almost exclusively concerned with her, we can only judge her inner life by her outward actions. That alone is a very interesting juxtaposition, but there is more.

For one, it’s – apparently – a love story about a woman who doesn’t really (let herself) feel love, nor romance, nor desire. But she wants to – and that first step of inventing a love story for herself by writing a love letter to a stranger, it’s a step out of the box she found herself locked into her entire life. It’s an act of freeing herself that kicks the novel off – but freedom is not easy to achieve.

In addition to that, the novel is accompanied by photographs who are mostly rather loosely connected to the content of the text – if at all. The photos on the cover, supposedly Lisa, are of Streeruwitz herself, which adds yet another layer of complexity. Considering the images in conjunction with the text and what they could mean together and separately, is in itself already very interesting. I was especially intrigued by what they don’t show.

Lisa’s Liebe is an interesting read that has a lot to offer. It definitely made me curious to read more Streeruwitz’ work.

Summarizing: Strong.

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