Torsten Hoffmann - Literary Cemeteries: Recalling the Dead in Kurzmitteilung and Dein Name
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Literary Cemeteries: Recalling the Dead in Kurzmitteilung and Dein Name1
For Regina Hoffmann (1943–2014)
While novels (in contrast to stories) usually attempt to represent the totality of a life, Navid Kermani’s first two novels are mainly concerned with death. Kurzmitteilung [Text Message], published in 2007, was the first text Kermani wrote to be called a novel and indicates its central theme already in the paratexts: on page iv, the author thanks ‘Manuela Pilartz, Pilartz Funeral Home, Cologne’, before the next page follows with a dedication ‘In memory of Claudia Fenner (1964–2005)’.2 In the novel, a Ford worker named Maike Anfang dies as young and as unexpectedly as – in real life – the Cologne actor Claudia Fenner died. The narrator finds out about her death by means of a text message referenced in the title. The remainder of the novel describes the narrator’s reactions to this news of her death. The massive novel Dein Name [Your Name] (2011) depicts the totality of the life of its authorial protagonist and first-person narrator ‘Navid Kermani’, but ‘[es] macht doch erst der Tod den Roman lebendig, den ich schreibe’ [it is death that gives life to the novel I am writing].3 For Dein Name, as Kermani explains both in the novel itself and in his Frankfurt lectures, ← 121 | 122 → is essentially a ‘Totenbuch’ [Book of the Dead].4 The novel is shaped by twenty-one eulogies for the dead, to whom...
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