Daniela Drocher: “Lied to my mother” – in a wedding corset

In her book, Lies About My Mother, Daniela Druscher dares to write about a body without showing it. (Book cover: Verlag Kiepenheuier & Witsch / Photo: imago / Thomas Frey)

The title of this novel can be understood – at least – in three different forms. On the one hand, a self-described poetic. Because although Daniela Drocher clearly tells of her mother in “Lügen über meine Mutter,” every autobiographical imagining is naturally meant: displacement, invention, and omission. Exactly: a lie, but for the sake of science:

“The story I have in mind is one with lots of makeup, blonde wigs, a swing, and a false bottom. A story that is entirely fictional in many ways. In philosophy, fiction describes “systematic assistance in solving a problem.”

“Lies. About my mother,” so the title can also be read. Trapped in the corset of her marriage and Rhineland-Palatinate village life in the ’80s, her husband’s parents are only one flight away, and the mailbox was in common—mother, whom Drocher tells us, always bending the truth a little bit. The imperative: Avoid the infamous husband’s harassment.

“The two of them argued almost every day, more precisely they argued, and my mother only resisted. The argument usually started in the evening when my father came out of the office and complained that he thought his wife was ‘too fat.’ Today he started it over breakfast.”

child insecurity

It’s not just about allegations. The father forces the mother to go on a diet and treatments and introduce a real special monitoring regime.

“For a long time she slept invisibly in the closet, and now the terrible glass scale was placed in the bathroom next to the basket of dirty laundry. Every Saturday morning, my mother had to check her weight right in front of him. Then my father wrote down the numbers in a notebook provided for this purpose. “.

The fact that a father blames what he considers his wife’s inappropriate body for the stagnation of his career is the hopelessly realistic lie implied in the novel’s title. The brutality that – how could it be otherwise – constantly disturbs the six-year-old narrator. Sometimes a father’s judgment is compared to the reactions of others:

The gas station worker’s gaze soon discovered my mother’s personality. I didn’t like the way the man was looking at her. His eyes moved first to her long jeans skirt and then to her slim jacket. He didn’t seem to find her “too fat.”

Employment is still a hollow promise

Sometimes the poison sprayed by the father works and the narrator himself begins to feel ashamed of her mother in public.

“I swam every afternoon as far from my mother as possible, so only in the swimmers’ pool. I was snorkeling and snorkeling to keep my head underwater. At some point, my heart stopped beating. Everything went well so far. No one has insulted my mother openly.”

The form that Daniela Drocher chose for “Lies About My Mother” is as personal as it is persuasive. The years 1983 to 1985, which she recounts from the perspective of her alter-ego child, are interrupted by essay passages. In them, the writing itself and those aspects that go beyond the child’s ability to perceive from the perspective of the present are reflected. For example, the private and social conditions in which a murderous family dynamic unfolds: a woman has only been allowed to work without her husband’s permission since 1977, the year Druscher was born. As a rule, they remain financially dependent because employment remains an empty promise as there is no childcare. The way the mother in Drocher’s novel defends herself against the foreign design of her body is always new with energy, but also tries to liberate herself professionally, learning foreign languages ​​to expand her portfolio, which is a great way to admire and at the same time a symptom of women of this generation.

How a father rationed family money and adorned himself with new cars, preferably convertibles, reveals a pattern of behavior typical of those men who, in the wake of the economic miracle, vacillate between a desire for progress, representation and the dictates of thrift. The latter may stem from the parents’ war experience, just as the ideal body so strongly demanded by the father clearly traces its origins to the Nazi ideology of steely ascetic bodies.

Narrated without the width of the body

Your body does not fit. She has professional ambitions. A third aspect distinguishes the mother from the petty-bourgeois world of Hunsrück, where matching is unspoken: her parents come from Silesia, and she herself moved to the Rhineland-Palatinate when she was six years old. It’s hard to escape the stigma of the stranger, the indecent.

To tell the story without exposing the mother’s body or discarding her autobiography – that’s the risk Daniela Drocher takes with this novel. And she succeeded in doing so in an impressive way. It’s also possible that Drocher has already experienced critical aspects of literary and intellectual terminology in her earlier novels such as “Paula” or “The Lights of Georges Psalmanazar” or in her essay “Show Your Class” from 2018: The Social Background Conditionality. Forced deception as a means of liberation. Cheating, where the father practices within his means with increasingly ostentatious cars and membership in a tennis club. And of course: turning away from the ideals of the body, for women it is punished much more than for men.

Thus “Lügen über meine Mutter” tells not only a nefarious family tragedy, but also a chapter of everyday and social female history that remains unrevealed beyond the private sphere. It is quite appropriate to name Daniela Drocher in the same way as Annie Erno.

Daniela Druscher: “Lies about my mother.”
Kiepenheuer & Witsch, Cologne.
448 pages, 24 euros.

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