Entwurf einer Liebe auf den ersten Blick (Love at First Sight)
Diogenes Verlag, March 1999, 77pp.
ISBN 3 257 06209 5
This is a true story, deftly and lightly fictionalised, by an author whose concern, as his three previous novels have demonstrated, is with showing how certain selected individuals react to, and are affected by, their historical circumstances. Here his subjects are Karl Sequens and Herminia Roudière, who meet in the course of the Spanish Civil War when Karl, an Austrian communist, is fighting with the International Brigade and Herminia, a local woman, has volunteered to help the wounded. It is love at first sight. They marry and have a daughter, Rosa Maria, born in 1938. But while, after the republican defeat and a brief internment in France, Herminia stays in Bayeux, Karl, who was imprisoned separately, is rearrested in Vienna; and when at last his wife receives a letter from him, it comes from Dachau. Three months later comes another, this time from Lublin. A third, from Auschwitz, is dated January 1945. Soon afterwards Herminia is informed that he is dead.
The other main theme is Herminia's attempts, at Karl's urgent bidding, to reach and settle in Vienna, where, he has assured her, his sister Rosemarie will take care of her. This is far from the case, because Rosemarie is a Nazi party member and the hat shop she runs is an 'Aryanised' Jewish business. Eventually she arranges for mother and child to be evacuated to the Bavarian countryside. But when she dies, in 1972, Herminia insists that the young Rosa Maria must claim their right to take over her flat in Vienna, thus realising Karl's wish. They succeed, after a long legal battle.
The author presents himself as a chronicler recording the facts, which he has closely researched, not as a novelist using them as a peg for his own inventions. The tale is tragic, of course, only punctuated by brief moments of happiness. But says Herminia, all the pain has been worthwhile. The simple, dispassionate style in which the story is told makes the reader willingly accept that this is true.