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review 2018-09-18 10:21
Wie viel Sympathie ist erlaubt?
Der goldene Handschuh - Heinz Strunk

„Der goldene Handschuh“ ist ein Tatsachenroman des Autors Heinz Strunk, der den Serienmörder Fritz Honka in den Mittelpunkt stellt. Honka war in den 1970er Jahren in Hamburg aktiv und ermordete mindestens vier Frauen, deren Leichen durch Zufall entdeckt wurden. Seine Opfer waren gescheiterte Existenzen ohne soziales Netz, weshalb niemand sie als vermisst meldete. Honka gabelte sie in den übelsten Kneipen im Bezirk St. Pauli auf, darunter auch das Lokal „Zum goldenen Handschuh“. Er wurde im Juli 1975 verhaftet und im Dezember 1976 zu einer Freiheitsstrafe von 15 Jahren verurteilt. Das Gericht ordnete eine Unterbringung in einer psychiatrischen Klinik aufgrund verminderter Schuldfähigkeit an. Er starb 1998. Zu Recherchezwecken erhielt Strunk Einsicht in Honkas Prozessakten, die bis dahin verschlossen im Hamburger Staatsarchiv lagerten. Der daraus entstandene Roman ist eine von Kritikern gelobte Milieustudie, die mir von einem Kollegen empfohlen und ausgeborgt wurde.

 

Fritz Honka ist ein Frauenmörder. Innerlich verkommen und äußerlich entstellt, findet er seine Opfer am untersten Bodensatz der Gesellschaft. Er ist ein Verlierer, der von einem besseren Leben träumt und seinen verstörenden Fantasien nicht entkommen kann. Er weiß, er ist ein Säufer, ein bedauernswerter Tropf, eine Niete. Doch Frauen lassen sich selbst für einen wie ihn auftreiben. Die Verlorenen. Die Verzweifelten. Diejenigen, die längst nicht mehr auf bessere Tage hoffen. In der Hamburger Kneipe „Zum goldenen Handschuh“ geht Honka auf die Jagd. Dort kreuzen sich die Wege aller sozialen Klassen. Arm und Reich trinken Schulter an Schulter, Jung und Alt begegnen sich in den ranzigen Schatten der schäbigen Kaschemme. Im „Handschuh“ ist das Elend zu Hause. Und es ist kein Privileg der Unterschicht.

 

„Der goldene Handschuh“ ist ein literarisches Experiment, dessen zweifelhafter Reiz meiner Meinung nach in der starken, unerwarteten Bindung an den tragischen, grenzwertigen Protagonisten liegt. Heinz Strunk porträtiert Fritz Honka, genannt Fiete, als ganz und gar abstoßenden Mann mit widerlichen Neigungen und Fantasien, der von Beginn an zu Grausamkeiten gegenüber Frauen tendiert. Er ist Alkoholiker und ein Sozialversager, wie er im Buche steht. Sein Umfeld ist ebenso degeneriert wie er selbst, seine Stammkneipe „Zum goldenen Handschuh“ ein Moloch menschlichen Elends und Scheiterns. Der Vorhof zur Hölle. Dort ist mal jemand auf einem Barhocker gestorben und niemand hat es gemerkt. So weit, so scheußlich. Ihr könnt euch nicht vorstellen, wie entsetzt ich war, als ich beobachtete, dass Fritz Honka an meinem Herzen zupfte. Ich hatte Mitleid mit ihm! Heinz Strunk nötigte mir Mitgefühl für einen brutalen, ekelhaften Frauenmörder auf! Ich musste feststellen, dass mich die Charakterisierung seines Protagonisten als jämmerliches Würstchen keineswegs kaltließ. Schriftstellerisch ist das ein beeindruckender Geniestreich. Ich drückte Honka während seines Versuchs, vom Alkohol loszukommen, die Daumen und als das nicht funktionierte, erwischte ich mich dabei, auf irgendein Erfolgserlebnis für ihn zu hoffen, sei es nun eine heiße Nacht mit der Putzfrau seiner Arbeitsstelle oder die Verwirklichung seiner abartigen Fantasie von zwei Frauen. Ich wünschte ihm Glück, ich wünschte ihm Befriedigung, obwohl er es nicht verdiente. Ich erforschte meine Emotionen und fand eine erschreckende Bereitschaft, mich auf Honka einzulassen. „Der goldene Handschuh“ ist ein provokantes Buch, weil Heinz Strunk darin die Beziehung zwischen Leser_in und Protagonist ungeniert in Frage stellt. Wie weit darf Sympathie gehen? Für mich ergab die Lektüre, dass meine persönliche Schmerzgrenze sehr hoch angesetzt ist. Ich habe durch diesen Roman etwas über mich selbst gelernt: meine Fähigkeit, Mitleid zu empfinden, wird durch drastische, schockierende Schilderungen nicht beeinträchtigt. Die Hauptfigur kann abscheulich wie Fritz Honka sein, drückt der Autor oder die Autorin geschickt meine Knöpfe, kann ich trotzdem mit ihr fühlen. Heinz Strunk gelang dieses Kunststück, weil er sich auf jeder Seite des Romans um Authentizität bemüht. Ich fühlte mich nicht manipuliert, ich sah der ehrlichen Realität der Hamburger Kneipenszene der 70er Jahre ins Auge, die Strunk durch einen direkten, unzensierten Schreibstil illustriert. Der „Handschuh“ ist ein Schmelztiegel, ein Knotenpunkt, den man vielleicht als deprimierendes Wartezimmer für Suchende beschreiben kann. Was die einzelnen Akteure in der Kaschemme suchen, ist natürlich sehr unterschiedlich: Ablenkung, Zuflucht, ein Bett für die Nacht, ein wenig Gesellschaft. Daher überraschte es mich nicht, dass fast alle auftretenden Figuren, auch diejenigen, die standesgemäß weit über so einer Kneipe rangieren, irgendwann dort aufschlagen. Am Rande der Gesellschaft ist eben immer Platz. Um es mit Tolstoi zu sagen: „Alle glücklichen Familien gleichen einander, jede unglückliche Familie ist auf ihre eigene Weise unglücklich“.

 

„Der goldene Handschuh“ ist ohne Zweifel ein interessantes Buch, weil es Leser_innen herausfordert und sie vor die Frage stellt, wie viel Zuneigung sie sich für einen verabscheuungswürdigen Protagonisten erlauben. Es ist eine ungeschminkte Milieustudie, die den Mikrokosmos der Hamburger Kneipen im Dunstkreis der Reeperbahn in all seiner Hässlichkeit abbildet. Nicht schön anzuschauen, aber ehrlich und echt. Intellektuell schätze ich sehr, was Heinz Strunk mit diesem Roman zu demonstrieren versucht, ich kann jedoch nicht behaupten, dass mir die Lektüre Freude bereitet hätte. Obwohl sich beim Lesen eine gewisse Faszination des Grauens einstellte, empfand ich das Buch insgesamt als zu trostlos. Daher empfehle ich „Der goldene Handschuh“ an experimentierfreudige Leser_innen, die sich gern selbst beobachten und nicht allzu zart besaitet sind. Betrachtet es als mentale Übung, um eure eigenen Grenzen auszuloten.

Source: wortmagieblog.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/heinz-strunk-der-goldene-handschuh
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review 2018-09-03 23:00
A solid and well-written historical fiction book with few surprises.
Munich: A novel - Robert Harris

I obtained a hardback copy of this novel through a giveaway and thank Ash (@FTLOBOOKS) for her kindness and for the opportunity. I freely chose to review it.

Robert Harris is a familiar name for most readers and moviegoers. His novels and popular and many have been adapted to the screen (I particularly enjoyed The Ghost as I have a soft spot for films about writers). But although I have watched several adaptations of his novels, I cannot recall having read one of them, and I was happy to be given this opportunity. After reading it, I understand why he is so popular, and I don’t think this will be the last one of his novels I read.

Until I started to read the novel and later read some of the reviews, I did not know much about the historical background to it. The novel is classed as historical fiction and deals with the Munich Conference, that took place in September 1938, in a last ditch attempt at avoiding war with Germany (and Italy). The novel takes place in 4 days, from the 27th of September 1938 onwards, and covers the meeting between Hitler (for Germany), Mussolini (for Italy), Daladier (for France), and Chamberlain (for England), to try and settle Hitler’s demands for a return of the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia (mostly inhabited by German speakers and people of German origin) to German hands. The actual agreement was signed on the 30th, without the presence of the Czechs, who worried the return to Germany of that region would leave them weakened and unable to defend themselves against further German expansion. Harris sticks to the facts, and the novel is divided into four parts, one for each day of the conference, with the historical figures who were present represented fairly accurately, and the events following the correct chronology as well.

What makes it historical fiction is the fact that he introduces into the story two characters who did not exist in reality, and Englishman, Hugh Legat (one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries) and a German, Paul Hartmann (a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance). They had met in Oxford and had also spent some time together in Germany, but had not seen each other in 6 year and had a bit of history, which we learn more about throughout the book. Whilst Legat is a family man and seems to be focused on his career and on doing things by the book, Hartmann is a bit more mysterious and has the heart of a spy. He is not averse to taking risks, has no family, is much more clued on what is at stake, and is seemingly more reckless as to putting others at risk. Of the two characters, perhaps Legat is the one we get to know better and the more recognisable and sympathetic type, whilst Hartmann shares less of his personal life. He is the one calling the shots but we get fewer glimpses of his true motivation and he seems to have less to lose, and that might make him more difficult to identify with but more interesting and intriguing. Both men are highly intelligent and sharp analysts, ideal candidates to become observers and stand-ins for the readers.

The book is written in the third person (extremely well) and alternates the point of view of both characters always making clear who we are reading about. Harris has a way of making characters and events that might feel familiar sound and look intriguing (something extremely difficult when there are so many players involved) and uses descriptions to great effect. As we follow these two characters, who are both insiders of this world of diplomacy and politics but not big influencers and therefore very restricted in what they can do without risking their own lives and those of others, we share with them the wonderment, the worry, and the awe at being in the presence of such important people and at such a momentous event. We also share their frustration at being unable to intervene and change the course of history (and that would have made an interesting speculative historical fiction novel, for sure) that in our case we know will end up in tragedy.

The pace of the novel is uneven. Due to how closely Harris follows the events, there are moments when the leaders are travelling, paperwork is being prepared, or when due to their roles, both characters and not in the thick of things, and although the novel is never boring (because of the great characterisation and the level of detail), it is not a page turner where the rhythm is frenzied and never lets off. There are tense moments at the beginning, then there are the actual meetings between the leaders, which are not witnessed by the two men, and then things pick up again. The secret documents being exchanged, the difficulty in arranging meetings or even exchanging a few words in such circumstances become increasingly clear as the conference comes close to an end, and both men become bolder and take bigger risks. The ending is somewhat anti-climactic (though realistic) but I don’t want to reveal too much.

I am not an expert in this historical period, but I did feel that I got a better insight into the events and also the historical protagonists of the Munich conference thanks to the novel. Reading some of the comments, it seems that many feel Harris has managed to make Chamberlain’s position and manoeuvres more understandable and agreeable, rather than adhering to the popular view that he was too weak and did not handle the negotiation well. Harris explains that after working on a documentary about the subject many years back, he had remained fascinated by this historical event and felt he had to write this book. (He also includes a lengthy bibliography acknowledging the sources he has used to write the book, which will be of great help to anybody looking for further information).

Here some examples of Harris’s writing in this novel:

Legat took out a large white cotton handkerchief and wiped his face. It would not do to turn up red-faced and perspiring. If there was one sin that was frowned upon above all others in the Private Office, it was appearing to be in a flap. (Harris, 2017, p. 10)

…because people believed what they wanted to believe — that was Goebbel’s great insight. They no longer had a need to bother themselves with inconvenient truths. He had given them an excuse not to think. (Harris, 2017, p. 139)

There is a very memorable scene, when shortly after the English delegation arrives at their hotel in Munich, they are regaled by  an oom-pah band playing in the street, in front of the hotel, The Lambeth Walk. Legat, very aptly, describes it as “surreal” (p. 212).

One of the moments that I thought better defined and explained Hartmann and his actions (because he had always been a firm believer in Germany and its nationhood and that had caused some friction with Legat in the past) was when he talks about Hitler and how they had ignored “the power of unreason” (p. 297), that he goes on to explain, saying that people kept making excuses for Hitler’s most extreme and bizarre behaviours (his antisemitism, his ethnic policies…), telling themselves that these were one offs that could be overlooked or ignored, whilst he now believed the most evil and the most extreme ideas and behaviours someone is capable of are what truly define him or her as a person.

I think this book works well as historical fiction and I’d recommend it to people who want to learn more about this particular historical episode without having to read several historical volumes. On the other hand, this is not a thriller or a standard spy novel, and although there are intriguing and mysterious aspects that quicken the pace, Harris sticks so closely to the actual events that he does not introduce major changes or surprises, even when it comes to his fictional characters. A solid and well-written historical fiction book and one that has convinced me I must read more of Robert Harris’s work.

Harris, R. (2017) Munich. London, UK: Hutchinson, Penguin Random House UK.

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text 2018-08-18 15:47
Reading progress update: I've read 147 out of 190 pages.
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim

"A man once made it a reproach that I should be so happy, and told me everybody has crosses, and that we live in a vale of woe. I mentioned moles as my principal cross, and pointed to the huge black mounds with which they had decorated the tennis-court, but I could not agree to the vale of woe, and could not be shaken in my belief that the world is a dear and lovely place, with everything in it to make us happy so long as we walk humbly and diet ourselves. He pointed out that sorrow and sickness were sure to come, and seemed quite angry with me when I suggested that they too could be borne perhaps with cheerfulness. 'And have not even such things their sunny side?' I exclaimed. 'When I am steeped to the lips in diseases and doctors, I shall at least have something to talk about that interests my women friends, and need not sit as I do now wondering what I shall say next and wishing they would go.' He replied that all around me lay misery, sin, and suffering, and that every person not absolutely blinded by selfishness must be aware of it and must realise the seriousness and tragedy of existence. I asked him whether my being miserable and discontented would help any one or make him less wretched; and he said that we all had to take up our burdens. I assured him I would not shrink from mine, though I felt secretly ashamed of it when I remembered that it was only moles, and he went away with a grave face and a shaking head, back to his wife and his eleven children. I heard soon afterwards that a twelfth baby had been born and his wife had died, and in dying had turned her face with a quite unaccountable impatience away from him and to the wall; and the rumour of his piety reached even into my garden, and how he had said, as he closed her eyes, 'It is the Will of God.' He was a missionary."

Quintessential Elizabeth.  And yet, her own cross amounted to vastly more than mole hills, too, in fact.

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text 2018-08-18 15:37
Reading progress update: I've read 140 out of 190 pages.
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim

"All those maxims about judging others by yourself, and putting yourself in another person's place, are not, I am afraid, reliable. I had them dinned into me constantly as a child, and I was constantly trying to obey them, and constantly was astonished at the unexpected results I arrived at; and now I know that it is a proof of artlessness to suppose that other people will think and feel and hope and enjoy what you do and in the same way that you do."

True. But then, you also had the courage to defy convention, Elizabeth ...

 

And I still think at least when it comes to cruelty vs. common decency, there is something to be said in favor of "don't do to others what you don't want to have done to yourself."

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text 2018-08-18 15:27
Reading progress update: I've read 133 out of 190 pages.
The Solitary Summer - Elizabeth von Arnim

"I am frightened once more at the solitariness in which we each of us live. I have, it is true, a great many friends -- people with whom it is pleasant to spend an afternoon if such afternoons are not repeated often, and if you are careful not to stir more than the surface of things, but among them all there is only one who has, roughly, the same tastes that I have ..."

Once again -- I hear you, Elizabeth.

 

Though I also think you'd have been very much at home in an internet book community.

 

Even though ... a Wordsworthian goose girl?  Hmm.

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