Heinz Healy and Julia Weber, author and author, married. They share a job, family and life with two children. What that means for him as a man and for her as a woman, both are addressed in a book. (archive photo)
It is a rare occurrence when two books deal with the same topic and relate to each other symbiotically. Heinz Healy and Julia Weber are a married couple and both are writers. Two years ago they became parents for the second time. This event shook both of them technically as well. How can fatherhood, family, art and participation be equitably reconciled? This is the question they ask at the center of every book. They give answers as personal as they are different. This makes parallel reading attractive.
In his novel Wellen, Heinz Helle extensively and investigatively searches for answers to what it means to be a father, a husband, and an author at the same time. It surprises you from the first page. The narrator shakes the newborn without being able to calm his screams. Anger erupts from him involuntarily, which immediately frightens him. He helplessly asks himself “How can you even feel sympathy for something that doesn’t look at you, let alone talk to you.”
This entry is bold, strong, and unmistakable. Father and newborn don’t (yet) belong together, the narrator first runs through a distance that the mother never had.
In this way, Healy’s narrator engages in an intense examination of his various roles. He feels insecure as he sleeps within himself and pent-up anger is trying to keep him away from everyday home life and instead “heads towards grateful goals like traffic volume, economic order, and a cleaning plan”. A chasm opens between desire and reality, as self-doubt sways like crocodiles. Wouldn’t he simply give up his “dreams, longings, and beliefs” for the newborn?
Julia Weber also talks about this everyday life. In “Jumble,” similar questions are asked about how motherhood and art are combined. However, it literally takes a different path. The first thing you notice is that it lengthens the period. She relays the beginning of her book to the months before conception. Naturally, the feminist perspective goes further than that.
Above all, Julia Weber embeds the difficult juxtaposition or even opposition of motherhood and art into an aesthetically open polyphonic structure. The narrator ponders the distraction from art that everyday life causes in order to process it immediately in a literary echo chamber. She creates two characters, Ruth and Linda, with which she frees herself from the difficulties of writing. To do this, she is constantly trying to talk to her friend A, who thinks about similar questions.
“Waves” and “Mix” tell the same people about the same everyday life and think about each other. Julia Weber reveals more about H. than the other way around. The narrator also sends messages to H. Himself several times, she quotes from his novel “Whelen”. This literary dialogue can hardly find its counterpart in Heinz Helle. Instead, the narrator unilaterally works through the role of a potentially abusive father to make sure what he’s doing with his wits.
Julia Weber writes powerfully in her book. “Suffering makes the imagination weak and sluggish,” Natalia Ginzburg is quoted as saying. In contrast, Healy’s narrator above all shows his weak side. Despite all the autobiographical correspondence and all the intimate relationships, it should not be forgotten, as Willen puts it: “Fantasy is fiction.” *
*This text was implemented by Beat Mazenauer, Keystone-SDA, with the assistance of the Gottlieb and Hans Vogt Foundation.