“Sergeant Majoor Marsjèn?” St. Peter asks the nonagenarian’s dead, is he asking at attention at the pearly gates for entrance. “Non, mon commandant. Je m’appelle Martien, pas Marsjèn, à votre Ordres,” the newcomer saluted.
This winking devised scene closes the novel with which the Flemish author Stefan Hertmans the footsteps of his follows grandfather Urbain Martien: how he was (“a forgotten war hero”), how he experienced the century personally, how did the grandchildren how others have perceived it the foundation for this portrait, the even placed grandfather when he was 72 years old: with fountain pen, he recorded “in an incomparable prewar handwriting” his memories in two books that he confided shortly before his death his grandson.
According to his own words, the first contains “too many boring stories from my childhood,” the second contrast is about the war, and only them, “what I have experienced myself.”
It took three decades brought the grandson the courage to read into this life, which encompasses “the most ruthless century in human history.
” The resulting book should appear aware before the centennial of the outbreak of war would officially intended. Stefan Hertmans wanted to put Urbain Martiens “personal anguish” next to it.
The world was a different planet” with villages, roads, horse-drawn carriages, gas lamps, laundry tub, devotional, “was born as Urbain Martien 1891 in Ghent. His father does not earn enough as a church painter, the family of five children get sick; the mother, who came from a wealthy merchant and home made, accepts sewing, cleaning and write jobs to help.
The Father, which he can look at his work and anreichen tools Urbain learn the art of mixing colors from natural materials such as pear wood, toxic cobalt powder, fragrant sweet Siena and sepia, the choice of brushes made of pig bristles or precious Eichhorn- and sable and dealing with pencil, charcoal and bitumen. the two endless, silent days.
To spend intense togetherness. The “sky of his childhood” follows hell of working life, enters the Urbain thirteen years. In an iron foundry, he must contribute deafening noise melting pot full of bubbling liquid iron. He does not think it accurately horizontally, it drips down to earth, bakes his feet in wooden shoes fixed. His body is marked by wounds, scratches and scars. During this time, but also the deep desire to “do what his father does,” to paint and draw, is growing. The mother financed him painting lessons from their hard-earned pennies.
In order to escape the hard work, do not provide for a simple young man with no education and financial possibilities. In November 1908, the seventeen books in the regimental school of Courtrai-Kortrijk. During the training, the French officers take the Flemings disproportionate ran hard, and even after the war began in field yells to him condescending “Marsjèn”, but he Will not Back Down, “Je m’appelle Martien, mon commandant”.
the time of world War fills the pages of II. chapter. Perspective and narrative change. It reports no longer the grandchildren, but the soldier Urbain Martien portrays himself what he experienced: the nightmare of SCHIP sheets, the Battle of Yser, the military and psychological warfare tactics and cruel reprisals of the German of civilians. Corporal Martien, an upright man who knows the obedience and executes each instruction carefully, often volunteered for applications where others hold back. Several times he is injured and released to recovery until it is fit for war again. Transported and excellent, but like so many traumatized he returned in 1918 back to Ghent.
Here send the records. The second issue is almost fully written, the gout in his hands and cataracts make Urbain Martien in the summer of 1976 to create. III. Chapter accepts author Stefan Hertmans again the role of the rapporteur. After his grandfather’s true love Maria Emelia died of the Spanish flu, he married in 1920 her sister Gabrielle, but they lead a detached marriage. He can never get over the loss of his only love, Gabrielle rejects him more and more. After the birth of a daughter, it seems as if they have done their duty.
“The sky of my grandfather” is not a new anti-war novel in the style of Erich Maria Remarque. Rather, it is a big thank you, a proof of affection of a grandson of his grandfather, who means a lot to him from whom he learned a lot, which has left him much of his world. Only after years of distance is the grandson peculiarities develop his nature as the meaning of his parents, painting and religion, war trauma and delusions.
The first chapter is striding light ahead, peppered with entertaining anecdotes were given again and again the best in the family circle: as the villain of sweets, but came up empty Soup Henkel men home as the gold watch at times bitterster poverty several times the way to the pawn shop and then took out … in II chapter tells his grandfather Great war without pathos. The experienced horror speaks for itself. In III. Chapter links the author of “my memory with his memories,” follows the many traces of the grandfather to the reconstructed trenches of battlefields of SCHIP sheets and Yser. Detail he describes landscapes and paintings, many of which are printed in black and white, as well as photographs.
In November 2014, the Flemish author Stefan Hertmans received for “Oorlog en terpentijn” the highly doped AKO Literature Prize for the best Dutch-language Novel. Ira Wilhelm has translated the book for the Hanser-Verlag.