Hardness 10Georg Meier
Berlin: Dittrich, 2009
In the summer of 1947 in the destroyed Hessian town Gießen, Heinrich Witt struggles along as a haulier, blackmarket peddler and drug dealer. Other characters include the Polish immigrant worker Stani, the East Prussian Otto, the resolute communist Erna, the crook Ziervogel and his girlfriend Jana, a gypsy.
While the protagonists conduct their shady business, binge drink, get into fights and provide substantial commentary of their surroundings, a second narration level reviews Witt's adventurous life - it begins with his childhood in Gießen as the son of a uniform tailor and continues with his escape via Hamburg from the First World War to the colony German East Africa where he takes on a job at a trading station.
When his boss, a "depraved Boer", dies from alcohol poisoning, Witt takes possession of his diamonds. He has a romance with the farm girl Emilie until he is conscripted into the protection force and aimlessly stumbles through the colony under the leadership of the drunken lieutenant Grosskötter. The well-educated Blücher, a black Askari (a mercenary soldier of the German colonial force) arranges for them to desert with a stolen British aircraft. Via Arabia the two of them end up in Turkey, where the stolen diamonds allow them to lead a comfortable life.
At the end of the First World War Witt returns to Germany and during the inflation period he acquires a hotel in Hamburg at a low price, he marries Emilie and has a son and a daughter. His wife and daughter, both staunch Nazis, die when Hamburg is bombarded during the Second World War. At the end of the war Witt finds himself back in Gießen with his son Franz, a former member of the SS and later an official of the NPD ("National Democratic Party of Germany). Witt's daughter-in-law gives birth to Martin, the son of a black occupying officer. Witt treats Martin like his own son and bequeathed him the remaining diamonds before he drinks himself to death. In 1968 Martin leaves his shares in the transport company to the Pole Stani and sets out southwards on the hippie trail with hashish and Jimi Hendrix.