Martin Horváth

“Mohr im Hemd” or As I Set Out to Save the World

Martin Horváth
München: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 2012
345 S.
ISBN: 978-3-421-04547-8
Ali Idaulambo is an extremely talented fifteen-year-old refugee from West Africa, who lives in a home for asylum seekers in Vienna. He is no average refugee. He speaks fluent German and he also knows forty other languages and dialects, spoken by the 130 asylum seekers and the 25 caregivers at the home. On top of that he has an astonishing wealth of experience and knowledge for someone of his age. Ali lives on the fourth flour of the home together with twelve other "unaccompanied minor refugees" (called "UMR" in short), separate from the adults who stay on the second and third floor.

The miserable and wretched life in the refugee home is monotonous and characterized by the long and usually futile wait for the approval of asylum requests. Ali escapes the boredom by listening to the usually sad life stories of his house mates from Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He shares these with the "black cook" Pitra during their regular story hours. By listening to his house mates' stories he helps them to come to terms with their traumatic past, since, as Ali puts it: "All of you have experienced something sad, but it doesn't help to keep silent about past experiences. You have to talk about them, get rid of them; otherwise they will stay with you forever." Ali's stories introduce the various asylum seekers and explain their reasons for fleeing their home countries – war, exploitation, forced prostitution and persecution.

Ali holds a mirror up to his fellow men and tries to fight prejudices against foreigners. However, he does not succeed in overcoming his own trauma.

    Martin Horváth: Mohr im Hemd

    Martin Horváth picked a rare narrator for his novel: an all-knowing, all-seeing first person narrator called Ali Idaulambo, who comes from a country in West Africa. He really does set out to save the world - the miniature world of the refugee home, which however has many parallels to the "outside world", the Austrian society.More ...