Lena Blaudez: Farbfilter (Colour Filter)
ReviewThe detective novel Farbfilter (“Colour filter”) is, like the author’s previous novel – Spiegelreflex – about the adventures and impressions of the photographer Ada Simon, who – as indicated in both titles – perceives the world through the lens of her camera.
The novel is divided into 41 chapters. Unfortunately there is no table of contents, but luckily most chapters refer to the location and the country in which they take place. The book also includes an interview with the author in which her intentions and background to the novel’s theme are discussed. The novel takes place in two different time frames, and the scenes alternate between several cities and countries. Starting point are the events in the “now” at a conference in Germany. But the reader discovers the backgrounds of the actual plot through Ada’s flashback of events that took place in Cameroon before this conference.
In colourful language Blaudez manages to paint a picture of Cameroon’s diversity. She describes the beauty of the country and the people’s hospitality and joy of life on the one hand and on the other, the poverty, corruption, violence and exploitation of natural resources by greedy entrepreneurs of the Western countries. In this way, Blaudez, who for many years has worked in development projects in Central African countries, wants to draw the reader’s attention to the skewed perception that “the continent is only poor on account of tribal wars".
Blaudez has the ability to bring to life the colourful chaos of a Cameroon market place. Captivated one follows the protagonist’s excursions from one page to the next. The speed and particularly the author’s visually evocative writing style make the novel appear like colourful photo reportage. Every chapter of the novel leaves behind a deep impact and encourages the reader to think and to question certain connections and seemingly foregone conclusions. However, already in the first third of the novel events happen quick and fast. Perhaps the author does this on purpose in order to keep the reader’s interest. The reader, however, is not only confronted with a fast succession of changing scenes, but also with an introduction of a large number of new characters and subsequently an ever more entangled story line. Without creating much suspense, the concentration of information is more tiring than thrilling.
However, the author’s witty and skilful use of language makes for an enjoyable read; the interesting topic, the tropical timber trade and its implications, also contributes to this.
The solution of the big mystery is not really surprising, for why should international business men gather in a dilapidated castle in the middle of nowhere in Mecklenburg if they had nothing to hide. And so, even though it might at first be difficult to understand why the author chose such a setting for an international conference, it is in hindsight very fitting after all.
What is less understandable, however, is how the mentally disabled Mr Pompöse acts as a key person in solving the mystery and why the police inspectors put more trust in him than in the charming and self-confident supposed culprit. The conduct of the novel’s protagonist also seems strange. Ada is a photojournalist, but she defies threats of torture and murder with such calm and serenity which one might only expect of an experienced detective superintendent. She also deals with the significant misfortunes without emotion, and even a rotting corpse cannot unsettle her. Such callousness might perhaps be fitting for a war photographer, but not for a nature photographer.
Nevertheless, the novel is engaging and provides valuable insight into the everyday life of Cameroon and makes one aware that the unrest and violence in the country is not only caused by local problems.
Sandra de Kock, 2012
translated by Eva-Melitta Raal
translated by Eva-Melitta Raal