You’re not dying by Kathrin Schmidt

You’re not dying by Kathrin Schmidt

German fiction

Original title – Du Stirbst Nicht

Translator – Christina Les

Source – Review copy

It is strange when you have heard people talking just last week about what makes it through to English in Translation and how sometimes great books get missed as they don’t fit the mould of what is expected from a country’s writing or like this book just seem to get missed the book won the German book prize (the German equivalent of the Booker prize) which had Herta Muller and Clemens J Setz on the shortlist. Kathrin Schmidt has written eight collections of poetry and five novels this is the most successful novel she was on the Berlin discussions called the round table and has been an editor in the past the book is described as autobiographical in parts as the writer herself had recovered from a stroke in the time she was writing the book.  There is also a collection of short stories in the pipeline to be translated into English.

She knows that voice.It’s Inga. She sems to have bought someone with her. “Come on in!” says a deep voice, butthen there’s the sound of falling over, followed by a gloating laugh. Why can’t she just open her eyes! She has to work out what just happened. Her fruend Inga wanted to visit her and was encouraged to come in, but there must be a deep piton the other side of the door. They’ve fallen into it. She becomes agitated now, she realises. What.s happened to her friend, whose voice she heard so clearly? Ahthere she is again, unsuprisingly upset.

Early on she start to know who is talking to her but still has large gaps in her memories of her past.

The book is told from the viewpoint of Helene as she recovers from a life-changing stroke which put her in a coma as she comes round from the sedation they have put her one we see how she starts to piece together her life after the stroke. What do you do when you have forgotten everything everyone you have known is new to you as you start to awaken from a blur this is described? We see as she starts to piece together the post wall german as she remembers her youth in East Berlin. It is a battle as she starts to fill the gaps that are in her kind as she has lost control of her body. and is slowly regaining control of it she looks at who she was and doesn’t know herself and starts to begin life anew the book question who are we what makes a person what are we the sum of our past or the person we are now! Then what happens when we lose that can we refind love or does it come from elsewhere this is a powerful work that tackles difficult subjects.

Legs up! Both of them

Helene’s lying on the mat,. Her left leg gets to ninety degrees, her right leg manages maybe thurty. Not bad, she thinks. She knows her right arm won’t manage anything, though- she can’t direct a single finger even a tiny bit. And here comes the command already.

“Arms out in front, and up!”

The left one goes up.

“And what about the right one?”

The physion knows the answer to that, so can’t she just get off her case.

Now the woman shoves her fist under Helene’s shoulder and stimulates the shoulder blade with her knuckle – she can clearly feel it , but it’s hardly painful, The physio guides Helene’s right arm up and turns it slightly outwards. As she’s holding it outstretched and up in the air, she challenges Helene to brace herself against her hand, at short intervals,

The recovery is slow as her body starts to regain its movement

What I loved about the book is how it used language so well even in translation how it builds the vocabulary used and wording of people changes like early on the nurse is just called the bum wiper simple words but as we see Helene grow as her brain starts to recover the vocab builds. It is a journey of discovery a woman rediscovering herself but also facing a past that she has forgotten. It shows you what a journey of self-discovery Helene takes after the stroke..The is great us of how we recover things like noise in the hospital that triggers memories of her past life. A road to recovery told as the past is gone and the future awaits but we see how the bridge of recovery is built piece by piece as the past slots together like a jigsaw. A great book that should come out sooner it won the German book prize 12 years ago. Have you read this or any other German book prize winners or shortlisted books?

Winstons score – +A a lost gem

 

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