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My grandfather was standing in front of the window and drinking tea number 12(2016)
Contents and interpretations tooMy grandfather was standing in front of the window and drinking tea number 12 [ ↑ ]
After the death of her grandfather, the chemist Günther Otto Schenck, Naomi Schenck inherited the rights to his biography. With the publication of this family story, she tries to solve this problem.
However, the text is not a researcher biography, but a mixture of family history and self-reflection, which among other things consists in the fact that the text also tells its own genesis. One learns of research efforts in which the narrator gets to know many people from the life of her grandfather, who had disappeared or believed to be dead, and also discovers something about his past that few or no one knew before. Above all, she is driven by the discovery that her grandfather was a member of the NSDAP and the SA. Since she was not aware of the membership in the SA during her grandfather's lifetime, she would like to understand this and understand the reasons for this apparently voluntary decision. Through the research, the processing of one's own common past and the reflection of all of this, a text is created that not only reflects the life of the grandfather, but above all that of Naomi Schenck.
Naomi Schenck sketches her grandfather's life through notes from family members and conversations with friends and acquaintances of Günther Otto Schenck. Not only is the professional career of the well-known chemist presented, but gradually the image of a family at the time of National Socialism emerges. The moral implications associated with studying in Heidelberg, which early adorned itself with being a Jew-free university, or voluntarily joining the SA come to the fore, as well as the then and now handling of such political life choices.
The granddaughter's research is characterized by a circling of facts. Contemporary witnesses or documents are found, but mostly only offer partial solutions or raise new questions. Due to constant questioning, she usually does not find a concrete answer and 'circles' the open questions. The text makes it clear that it is ultimately impossible to find definitive evidence, facts or answers to these open questions, which can also be seen in the narrative and structure. Günter Grass put it in a similar way in the title of his autobiographical story. When peeling the onion is what he called his text and this is exactly Naomi Schenck's narrative process, layer by layer is removed, as with onion skins, this sometimes brings tears to the eyes. But an onion has no core - the real question of conscience for the grandfather can only be explained by himself. Why her grandfather joined the SA or whether he was registered must therefore remain unclear until the end of the text. However, Schenck manages to find several possible solutions to every open question. So it happens that the text is not only about her grandfather, but above all about the story of the Schenck family and how Naomi Schenck and her family dealt with new and old facts about her grandfather's story. This means that there is no biography, but rather the granddaughter's search for the past and the secret. Naomi Schenck repeatedly addresses her own prejudice to new findings or facts, such as the opinions of acquaintances and friends about her grandfather. Her posthumous relationship with her grandfather, as well as her personal evaluation of what happened and what was secret and what she perceived differently, leads the plot, which follows the circular movement of Naomi Schenck's research, into dead ends, to new insights and to the final insight that many questions remain unanswered have to. Nevertheless, it is important and productive for oneself to ask them.
The penultimate chapter stands out particularly. Here you can find “The last 500 years” of the history of the Schenck family. In this chapter it is noticeable that Schenck makes little reference to himself, to her own story or to the story of his grandfather. While the remainder of the text moves in small steps towards finding memories, a milestone can be found here, since it is about the events of the ancestors from the point of view of the family chroniclers of the Schenck family. This marks an abrupt end that leaves everything that Naomi Schenck has explored so far behind or in front of it. Schenck paves the way for the story by marking its text as a fragment that subsequent Schenck generations can continue.
Naomi Schenck looks back with her text as a member of the so-called '3rd generation' (after World War II). It shows the image of a generation that wants to enlighten but is still biased by personal experiences. Throughout the entire work it becomes clear that through all generations, participants to the following (1950s, 1968 movement and subsequent generations), different forms of feelings existed during the Nazi era: from convictions, to concealment, to people who dealt with the Have completed time and family involvement. Thus, the search for the grandfather's story turns out to be a cross-section of German families and their processing and / or handling of German Nazi history.
Thematic aspects tooMy grandfather was standing in front of the window and drinking tea number 12[ ↑ ]
My grandfather was standing in front of the window and drinking tea number 12 shows a blank space with regard to the topic of eroticism. Neither in the life of the grandfather is erotic relationships researched or discussed, nor in the life of the author herself.
In My grandfather was standing in front of the window and drinking tea number 12 Naomi Schenck reconstructs the life of her grandfather and gives an insight into her family history. During her research and writing work, she also asks questions about herself. Again and again, personal disputes regarding impartiality and reflective ability come to the fore. Here, the granddaughter-grandfather relationship in particular determines the reflection on Naomi Schenck's work, especially its results. Even if the work was supposed to be a biography of the grandfather, a 'memorial' was created here that primarily deals with the life and thinking of Naomi Schenck. While researching and processing the family history, Naomi Schenck comes across information that raises moral questions. There is constant questioning and negotiation. The granddaughter's perception, especially from the children's perspective, often has to withstand a reality of the facts of the research and regularly challenges the author in her writing work. The grandfather-granddaughter relationship is the one that mainly influences research work and, above all, its results.
Formal aspectsMy grandfather was standing in front of the window and drinking tea number 12[ ↑ ]
Pictorial writing style
All Naomi Schenck's works have in common that they are characterized by a pictorial, descriptive style of writing. This pictorial quality is characterized by the precise establishment of notions of the space in which the action takes place, as well as the creation of atmosphere and possible tensions between the characters. In this way, the texts evoke a precise picture of situations and places.
Even the titles are particularly expressive, as in the novel, for example My grandfather was standing in front of the window and drinking tea number 12.
Reality and fiction
My grandfather was standing in front of the window and drinking tea number 12 distinguishes the special feature that the description of the real through Naomi Schenck's pictorial-descriptive style creates an impression of fictional events. The representation and reliving of memories and research is clearly marked and yet Schenck manages to lead the reader through her representation of reality into a kind of space between reality and fiction. The connection between the staging of real places and the retelling is a special characteristic of Schenck's writing style. Especially in text passages in which she enters a place in the now that she fills with her own memories.
Press review too My grandfather stood in front of the window and drank tea no.12 [ ↑ ]
The reviews focus primarily on the question of the text type of Schenck's research work and how they dealt with the Nazi history of German families. In this context, Eva Pfister (WOZ, April 21, 2016) uses the word “memoir”, borrowed from the US, which defines Naomi Schenck's research movement more precisely. In the German language there is no word that sums up the diversity of such a type of text. This indefinability is also noticed by Alexander Košenina (FAZ, 23.03.2016), who defines through the exclusion procedure: “This book is not a biography, not a family chronicle, not a case history of German ambivalence, not a novel. And yet it is all of that at the same time ”. Britta Heidemann (WAZ, February 22, 2016) also states that Sckenck's book is one “that meanders between biography, contemporary history and very personal self-questioning”. Schenck's research, which represents the main plot of the book, is seen as a self-awareness of one's own family history, which Eva Pfister describes as "thoroughly entertaining" and Alexander Košenina as an exciting process: "Rather, she writes about writing itself - [... ] And also about internal resistance and innumerable difficulties ”. Other reviewers are bothered by this research work because “there is a lack of stringency and the author repeatedly [loses] sight of her goal”. In addition, Schenck disappointed the "initially stoked expectation [...] that she would finally be able to find out something exciting about Günther Schenck's work during the Nazi era" (Barbara Dobrick, SWR2, May 3, 2016). Thomas Hummitzsch (on Friday, March 14th, 2016) also sees the research work as a “[poking] in the fog of grandfather's biography”; the author collects "a lot of probabilities, little that are certain".
According to Dobrick, Naomi Schenck's style leads to “that one doesn't always like to follow Naomi Schenck on her meandering paths” (Barbara Dobrick), because “[s] he intersperses dialogues that sometimes sound very banal; there are quite a few repetitions and there are also linguistic blunders. ”For Dobrick, the difficulty that the narrator feels in her paperwork and which she confesses in a self-reflective manner is carried over to the process of reception.
For Thomas Hummitzsch, Schenck's efforts to enlightenment are indicative of “[a] generation of grandchildren who are slowly trying to break through what the Israeli psychologist Dan Bar-On describes as a 'double wall': the iron silence of the war generation and the lack of questions from their descendants ". Alexander Košenina sums up that “Schenck is now taking this rather uncomfortable path with her literary report and shows that Germany has not yet achieved normality in this area even three generations after National Socialism,” Naomi Schenck's text also hits "The society somewhat unexpected, but with undiminished force". Thomas Hummitzsch describes Schenck's performance as "courageous because it extends the concept of perpetrator to the large mass of viewers in the Third Reich". In this context Eva Pfister states that “Naomi Schenck [thinks] intensely about moral problems, but she does not judge.” Britta Heidemann thinks in a similar direction and praises that “maybe only the grandchildren can write like this: research , but not judgmental, alert and self-critical - a declaration of love to someone who was close and at the same time a promise not to repeat his mistakes ”.
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