A work of subtle, perceptive autofiction from one of Germany’s most highly regarded contemporary voices, Wir hätten uns alles gesagt marks a turning point in Judith Hermann’s work. Though written in her characteristic melancholy, understated style, this series of three interconnected stories taken from the author’s own life confronts painful events and emotions head-on, sometimes to devastating effect.
Wir hätten uns alles gesagt was originally conceived as a series of three lectures for the Frankfurter Poetikvorlesungen writing fellowship. The book is given its narrative framework when Hermann encounters her former analyst late one night and sits down with him for a drink. Writing about this unexpected encounter with a blend of subtle humour and nuanced consideration, she proceeds to draw us deep into her own life: her childhood in a dysfunctional family, excursions to a summer house on the Baltic coast, former friendships and relationships, settings that range from the North German seashore to dimly-lit bars in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg. As well as providing the impetus for the narrative, the period Hermann spent in psychoanalysis with Dr Dreehüs plays a major role in the first section of the book, as do dreams and the theme of female friendship, which is explored, often agonisingly, in her relationship with a woman named Ada.
The final section of the book is something of a departure, examining what Hermann feels to be the influences that have shaped her writing. Much of this is set against the backdrop of the pandemic. As she embarks on a relationship and considers writing a story inspired by her new lover, she deploys a more metafictional approach, which allows the reader to see a clear trajectory from the beginning of the book to where she is now. Wir hätten uns alles gesagt is an honest reckoning, a book about learning to cope with life’s challenges. It is also an account of undergoing psychoanalysis, revealing the author’s inspirations and opening up about some of the darkest, most painful moments of her past.
Comparable to the work of Rachel Cusk but written in Hermann’s inimitable voice, Wir hätten uns alles gesagt is sensitive, graceful and quietly introspective – beautiful and compelling reading about an author’s life and influences.
Rights sold to: France (Albin Michel), Denmark (Batzer), Netherlands (Pelikanen)
Read more on the publisher’s website here: https://www.fischerverlage.de/verlag/rights/book/judith-hermann-wir-haetten-uns-alles-gesagt-9783103975109
All recommendations from Spring 2023