Road trips are an extremely popular subject in literature. Fernando Aramburu adds another fine, amusingly told story to the long list of road trip literature. The nameless Spanish first-person narrator, usually just called Maus by his German wife Clara, accompanies his wife on a research trip through northern Germany. Clara is a teacher and part-time writer. She is currently on a sabbatical and wants to write a literary travel guide about Germany. The couple lives near the North Sea and it all starts on a rainy day in July:
Clara had had one of her attacks of morning depression while still at the height of the Jade Bay. In the mornings, Clara practices depression the way others go for a jog through the park or their daily gymnastics. A passing military convoy had triggered their discouragement. We had just crossed the bridge over the Jade, which could hardly be called a river. (…) I suspected brooding, frustration, problems. To avoid something spilling out of the steamer of her thoughts and splashing me, I refrained from asking what was the matter with her.
Under observation: the dynamics of the couple relationship
The first stop on the journey is a visit to relatives in Cuxhaven, where the couple lives with a very old aunt and “Mouse” is forced to repair a drain. Then it’s on to Bremen, Worpswede, the Harz Mountains and Hanover. The first-person narrator, who actually doesn’t feel like traveling, is traveling along as his wife’s assistant, so to speak, he’s supposed to do research, take photos, and steer the car. Fernando Aramburu describes the dynamics of the couple relationship very touchingly:
This married couple in the novel consists of two people who are very different. From the character, from the culture. (…) Nevertheless, they are able to keep their conflicts below a certain limit. (…) We can argue, we provoke, but we would never cross a certain limit. Then the relationship will be harmonious.
Fernando Aramburu’s narration seems almost unintentional
Fernando Aramburu strikes a light, often comical, but sometimes a little avuncular tone. His narration is almost unintentional and then surprises again and again with precise, funny observations, for example German peculiarities:
“Before that, I had taken off my shoes and placed them next to Clara’s on a mat that is in the hallway for this purpose. In Aunt Hildegard’s apartment and also in that of Mrs. Kalthoff, it is common for visitors – like in a mosque – take off their shoes at the entrance and then walk around the apartment in stockings, unless they have brought their own slippers.”
“Journey through Germany with Clara”: A story that seems like a dream
Clara’s husband is initially just her assistant, but after some time he begins to write himself and ends up being the one who publishes the book about the journey. It’s a fun trick, an unexpected second level.
Fernando Aramburu’s novel is the story of a journey through a Germany that almost seems like a dream. No Corona, no violent demonstrations, a certain complacency is palpable. The author himself described this book as his happiest: “‘Die Reise mit Clara’ is actually about happiness. Or rather, the question of how much happiness we humans are allowed to have in everyday life these days? Without becoming an idiot. (. ..) The protagonist is a collector of moments of happiness, so he can also enjoy the journey.
Journey through Germany with Clara
by Fernando Aramburu, Translated by: Willi Zurbrüggen
- Page number:
- 592 pages
- Rowohlt publishing house
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