Helga Schubert stammt aus Berlin. Sie war mehrmals Jurorin des Bachmann-Preises, im Vorjahr gewann sie die Auszeichnung.
© Renate von Mangoldt
By Markus Schramek
Innsbruck – you were forewarned. Last June, Helga Schubert won the Klagenfurt Ingeborg Bachmann Prize with a text that made people feel dismayed. The German author described the difficult relationship with her mother in an autobiographical manner. Schubert, born in the Second World War in 1940, experienced an ominous, dramatic period in recent German history first hand, up close and merciless. The escape from the bombs and the approaching Russians ended, rather by accident, in East Berlin. There, the Nazi tyranny was replaced by the GDR dictatorship.
Helga Schuberts „Vom Aufstehen”
It may be that Schubert’s mother, exhausted, lost sight of her only child, Helga, against this background. A separating wall was not only built right through the middle of Berlin. The differences between mother and daughter Schubert seemed just as irreconcilable.
Schubert’s new volume of short stories, which will be published today, bears the name of her victorious text from Klagenfurt: “Vom Auferstand”. Around this contribution, the author groups stations in her life, which would have been different without the historical upheavals up to German reunification. In total, there are around 30 chapters in loose succession: anecdotes, memories, aperçus.
The 81-year-old author captivates the reader right away. What has been experienced and survived is incomprehensible, but not a word of complaint, no evaluation, no subsequent condemnation comes into the book for the author.
Joyful summer outings in the country with the beloved grandma contrast sharply with the mother’s freezing cold. She wanted to give birth to a boy for her husband, who soon dies as a soldier in the war – a claim that she rubs under her daughter’s nose. A greater humiliation for the child is hard to imagine.
Something like that has an effect, something like that can never be shaken off or suppressed. And so Schubert never mentions her mother by her first name. “Yes, your daughter: she remained a stranger to my mother,” writes the author as if she were about someone else and still means herself. Greatest distance also in writing.
Schubert had already been invited to the Bachmann Prize in 1980, but the GDR refused to allow her to leave the country on flimsy pretexts. The regime had the trained psychologist and writer on its radar as a suspected enemy of the state. But those who were being monitored succeeded time and again in cheating the GDR system. She even got banned books from the West behind the Iron Curtain by regular mail.
The award-winning author left Berlin many years ago – in favor of a quieter life in the comparatively sleepy Mecklenburg. There she takes care of her husband in need of care.
Schubert’s mother lived up to the biblical age of 101 years. The reconciliation between the two women is unlikely to have come about. But it was enough for words of mutual respect and thanks. “Everything is fine,” is Schubert’s concise final sentence.
A bitter look back, but without anger.