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It is the story of an obsession, which Lydia Mischkulnig describes with an absolutely pathological love of detail in her new novel Schwestern der Angst (Sisters of Fear). Renate and Marie are half sisters with the same mother but different fathers. They are a pair of opposites, two halves: the dark and neurotic Renate, and the fair and ‘normal’ Marie. What is recounted is Renate’s delusional relationship with her surroundings and especially with her sister. It is a biography with abysses and is told exclusively from Renate’s point of view, lending it considerable charm. She grows up in Eastern Europe with her grandparents. Her mother goes off to work in the West and leaves the child behind. Abuse by the grandfather is hinted at, a milieu of alcohol and violence shapes the way she grows up. Then her mother appears and – with another child in her belly – fetches Renate to take her to her second life. Marie is born, but the mother dies giving birth, at which point Renate takes over her role. It is this recurring incestuous fantasy of the protagonist’s that increases Renate’s delusion still further, until she finally knows no limits, no good or evil, no morals.
It is Paul’s behavior that triggers this change: he seems to promise Renate his love, only to decide in the end for the good Marie. In doing so he is a monster, who rapes the defenseless Renate, who wants to offer herself to him as a chaste Vestal virgin who has lost her way. And now he wants to ruin the sister too, the innocent child. This is how it seems to Renate, this is how she lies to herself, creating her own imaginary world. Her biography and its apparently dependable facts are not to be trusted. One notices that the ostensibly logical and moral conclusions Renate draws are simply an expression of her delusion. A delusion that pretends to love her sister, and behaves as if she were judging good and evil, but which in fact resorts to violence in order to satisfy her injured vanity.
The author uses the same words to describe both obscenities and everyday occurrences, maintaining a dry and almost porous language, which describes both the gruesome and the esoteric thoughts of the protagonist precisely and without emotion. The story is told in often short, breathless sentences, as breathless as Renate herself, who is more driven along, a victim, until we again realize that she is telling the story herself and that all narration is a lie and one can assume the opposite.
Abbreviated review by Bernd Schuchter, 10 September 2010.
English translation by Hillary Keel.
Complete German version: http://www.literaturhaus.at/index.php?id=7678
[ book info ] Mischkulnig, Lydia: Schwester der Angst .
(Book language: Deutsch)
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