Marzahn, Mon Amour by Katja Oskamp

Marzahn, Mon Amour by Katja Oskamp

German fiction

Original title – Marzahn, mon amour: Geschichten einer Fußpflegerin

Translator – Jo Heinrich

Source – review copy

I have been a fan of Peirene press since they started and have reviewed most of their books of the time of blog which is about time they have been bringing out books they bring out their books out every year around a theme and here is the first book in this year’s series a book that was chosen for Berlins one book where the city all read a book at the same time I love that idea. Any way Katja Oskamp is from the same area of East Berlin and was well received with her first work the Halbeschwimmer a collection of short stories that dealt with the falling of East Germany from the view of a teen swimmer. This book is the first since she trained herself as a podiatrist a job she has been doing for the last seven years. This book also follows a middle-aged writer in what is called in the intro of the book those invisible fizzy years when you are too far from the shore you started and it is out of sight and is not near enough to the end shore of life. I love that description as someone caught in the fuzzy time myself.

Frau Guse parks her walking frame and hangs her jacket on the coat stand, breathing heavily. She waddles into the chiropodist’s room with her shopping bag and sits down on the chiropody chair. I help her take off her shoes and socks and roll up her trouser legs. Together we lower her feet into the footbath I’ve prepared, I pluck two gloves frk their box and slip them on, turning to frau Guse who mentions as she does at this point every time, that she has had breat cancer, I nod and say as I do at this point every time, that her her operation was almost seven years ago and that the tablets she’s had to take ever since have terrible side effects, such as shortness of breath and diarrohoea.

One of her first clients Frau Guse.

The book is a series of vignettes of the clients our newly qualified Podiatrist meets when she retrains as one as she is struggling to make ends meet as a writer so when she starts working she meets the locals of Marzahn a run-down part of Berlin as it is described in one of the German reviews outside the ringbahn the central part of Berlin. Starting with an elderly lady Frau Guse a survivor of Breast cancer as she rubs the dead skin of her feet she sighs a colourful woman in loose clothes hiding her missing breast I love the detail she observes in the people whose feet she works on. One that really struck me as she says the is those that feel that Marzahn has many former GDR bigwigs or Sed officials but it isn’t except for one of her clients the cold Herr Pietsch as she described him as a dye in the wool party member he has a sort of detached manner with her that is in contrast to most of the other clients in the book. I’m only mentioned three of the clients as it will leave loads for you like me the reader to discover the last is Gerlinde as she says the area of Marzahn has many refugees and she is one from Prussia that fled to Berlin near the end of the second world war often in her plastic shoes how with her family fled on a ship called the Lappland back in the day. but never got that far when the ship didnt’t get too far and they end up on a refugee train and end up in Berlin.

Herr pietsch, taking off his shoes and socks, stares out of the window. By now I know the routine: he is always wary at first , only to drastically overstep the mark later. I bend down, push the footbath into place and look up into his protruding eyes – two bulging orbs. Herr pietsch speaks with a Thuringian- Saxon accent, a little indistinctly as he’s  on his thiurd set of teeth: “There are certainly a few things I’m not happy with, but I”m getting by. I’m on top of life ”

One of her clients as she bserves is an old party Type!!

As you can see I loved this there is a warm heart to these little vignettes and to the characters she meets someone’s foot maybe tell as much as a  hands do about our lives. what comes across is that even in the most down and out areas like Marzahn as it is observed by one of the characters it is built on a former sewage farm site. The character with her job occupies the same space as the Hairdresser or the barman someone that people tend to open up to maybe a little more than they would in over situations small talk but over time as in these vignettes it sometimes grows and yes like frau use who seems to have a script of her life or maybe this is also a sign of her having dementia as she often recounts the same story over and over again. This is a slice of those that are often passed as I described in a review years ago the flotsam and jetsam of the world those that can’t escape where they are or maybe just have always been there I was also reminded of the Character that was played by Curt Bois Homer an elderly poet in the film Wings of desire or in its German title Der Himmel uber Berlin another glimpse behind the net curtains and high rise of Berlin. Characters who like Homer is looking for a way home to their past this is the case in a lot of these vignettes the past weights heavy in their tales at times it ? if you are a fan of interlinking stories or stories about everyday folk this will appeal. Have you read this collection ?

Winstonsdads score – +A A great collection of vignettes about the locals of a high rise rundown area of Berlin.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Feb 21, 2022 @ 12:07:32

    I read enjoyed this too, all the different characters and the empathy with which they are portrayed, the importance of community and connection in all neighbourhoods.


  2. Lisa Hill
    Feb 21, 2022 @ 21:53:12

    I reckon all those body service industries must have marvellous stories to tell, just a visit to a hairdresser would give a writer enough stories to last a year.


  3. Janakay | YouMightAsWellRead
    Feb 21, 2022 @ 23:23:38

    I have a copy & read a few pages when it arrived. It was very hard to put down for all the reasons you touch on in your review, but I had some other books I needed to finish up before starting something new. It definitely captured my imagination and I intend to return when I have a bit more time.


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February 2022


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