schwimmen gegen blond: eine erzählung in zweiundfünfzig tagen (Swimming Against Blond: A Tale in Fifty-two Days)
C.H. Beck, February 2002. 195 pp.
'I once told Max that I hated good-byes. They are like countless little deaths to me. Then we practised: leave me and come back. When he came back I cried'.
Sandra Hoffmann's debut is a short novel written in the first person about a woman's mixed-up love life. The narrator's boyfriend, Max, whom she lives with on and off, is the main source of her indecision. He is periodically unfaithful, has various annoying habits, and can be extremely jealous. Against this can be set his finely stocked wine cellar, his knowledge of philosophy, and the fact that he loves her dearly and looks good to boot. She must decide: does she or does she not love him?
Always on hand to offer advice and unasked for opinions are her friends Kara and Ingo and their budgerigar Shalom, three Neapolitan oddballs who keep racing rabbits, the blue plastic elephant under her bed, and email@example.com. This character appears often in the diary entries she writes every Monday. He lives in Israel and has his own worries. Do women prefer an ambulance driver or a truck driver? Should he stick with Julie from Paris or the techno-china lady?
The diarist's quandaries lead her into the arms of 'The Blond', a fit, tanned, twenty-six-year-old whom she doesn't love at all but whom she just can't resist. Then, on holiday with Max in France, she finally comes to understand her true feelings.
This is a fun book with all the bonuses the term implies. Though aimed no doubt at young German twenty-somethings, the issues it raises and the questions it asks, not to mention the offbeat lifestyle of some of its characters, should enable it to cross many frontiers. The ambiguities of friendships, the difficulties of open relationships and the negative effects an unhappy private life can have on the rest of one's existence, including one's dreams - these matters are not of appeal to one country's readers alone. And nor is the punchy, up-to-date style, of which this book is an attractive example.