Venice has already sunk into the sea. Daily life is affected by floods, droughts, temperatures over 47 degrees and plastic waste that spoils bathing in the sea. People sit in their dorms, stare at screens and move their thumbs across the screens. “The rule was: There can never be pictures. The truth was: We didn’t want to leave our brains alone with the world. None of us. That’s why the pictures were there.” The future that Leona Stallman describes in her novel All These Irrational Miracles (DTV) isn’t too far off. Yet she only seems so far away when she visits the author in her new home.
At the beginning of the year, the writer moved from Hamburg to Seehausen near Murnau with her husband and daughter. She now lives in an apartment that used to be a horse stable near a mansion built by Emmanuel von Seidl. It is quiet here, very green, hardly any cars, it is not far from Stavelsi, a real poet’s place. Don’t miss the big city she’s lived in for seven years. “I missed nature there more than I lacked people here,” Stallman says as he pours the tea. She did not expect that it would be so difficult to find a daycare place for her one and a half year old daughter. “I thought it was easier in the country.” The fact that the “very existential field of childcare” is so neglected in this country makes it a bit surprising. “And that’s with rising rents.”
Born in Fulda in 1988, Stallman discovered as a child that writing was the system she wanted to use to organize her world. “All These Minor Miracles” is her second novel, for her “a novel of accidental hope”. Looks like she was planning to write another book. Stillman shakes his head. “I write unintentionally, for me, writing is first and foremost an opportunity to use language.” Its impetus came from a vague sense of hesitation in the present, unease with what was there. “It wasn’t clear to me at first what exactly that meant.” I began to write, but only after the flood disaster in the Ahr Valley did I realize how many narrative threads I had woven were connected to the fear that perhaps this planet would not be able to sustain people for much longer.
People have settled into her novel well on the fringes of disaster
Despite the dreary and horrific scenario you paint, climate change dystopia does not appear. Stallman says she’s already tried to create something beautiful. It worked. Thanks to the poetic power of language, it also extracts the dazzling moments from dark, dark situations. She herself positions her novel close to decadent poetry, and she has end-of-the-flow aesthetics. “I am a person who looks for beauty and hopes that you will save everything.”
Leda, the main character in the first part of the novel, is depressed because she has given birth to a child in this dying world. “Me and the others, we spoiled you later, we no longer have the right to live in the former, but it is the only place we know, and we have no other.” At some point she can no longer stand the fact that Zeno’s world is collapsing and her son is left behind. But in the second part, a 12-year-old girl named Qat tells of collecting sweet moments and neglected magic spells, finding a new community to take care of. Rather than despair, these people explore the ever-changing nature. Protests against the destruction of the land became unnecessary. “We were well positioned on the edge of disaster. We knew it wouldn’t hit us first. We knew we had to put up with the watch.”
The action is not the defining moment of the novel, it happens by chance. Stallman is much more interested in the question of how the disappearance of beauty affects society. However, the Bachmann contest jurors reacted mixed and sometimes harsh to the excerpt Stallman read there in the summer. “Klagenfurt only destroys if you don’t win. It will take a while to get rid of that,” says the author. “On the other hand, since then I’ve had a feeling that nothing can shake me so quickly.”
She is not currently planning another novel. “I’m an antique collector, I have to save it again first,” she says. She loves it when her novels explode at the seams in Baroque abundance, forcing the reader to read slowly. But now she asks for the present first: after all, the search for a place in the nursery is not over.
Leona Stallman: All These Unrelated Miracles (dtv). Readings in Munich on Thursday, October 6, 7 p.m., at Clubhaus Franzi, Schwanthalerstraße 57, and on October 25, 8 p.m., at HochX Theatre, Entenbachstr. 37