Abgetreten (I Quit)
Knaus Verlag, August 2004. 128 pp.
Hilde, the protagonist and narrator of this novel, is on holiday in France with her husband Kurt. They are having dinner, and it takes exactly the duration of the meal for Hilde to realise that their marriage is finally dead. She thinks about how this state of things has come about and tells her story in flashback between the courses.
She describes how they met in her late teens or early twenties, their whirlwind romance and her unexpected pregnancy. Hilde is a trainee nurse, very close to her working-class family and quite conservative in her outlook. Kurt’s family, by contrast, are wealthy and upper-class and do not approve of his choice. They refuse to support him and the couple barely get by on Hilde’s meagre income. The only holiday they ever managed was their honeymoon trip to the same hotel in which, fifteen years later, their story draws to a close. Even back then the trip had hardly been a success, with Kurt eager to go climbing while Hilde had a fear of heights. Now her husband has suggested a return to the same place and for a moment her hopes of salvaging their marriage revive. Then a grim thought strikes home. Is Kurt planning a climbing trip from which she will never return?
This is an outstanding, accomplished and witty novel, quirky and lightly told and with a funny and feisty heroine. I Quit puts a mischievous new spin on the story of enduring love as well as on Andersen’s fairy tale of the beautiful red shoes. A central metaphor in the story, Hilde’s shoes are not dancing shoes but red stilettos, the height of glamour, and her one and only present from her husband. Now they are worn down and outdated, like the honeymoon hotel itself. With them the long-suffering Hilde crushes her love ‘like a cockroach’, donning in their place a pair of sturdy boots for the walk to the viewpoint and the cliff’s edge. No need to reveal what may be the fate of the scoundrelly husband. A moving and funny read throughout.