Hamann, Christof

Usambara

Christof Hamann
Göttingen: Steidl, 2007
259 S.
ISBN 978-3-86521-557-4

Fritz Binder, a postman from Solingen, is fascinated by his family history according to which his great-grandfather, long legged son of a gardener, Leonhard Hagenbuch, not only participated as botanist in the first ascent ever of the Kilimanjaro undertaken under the leadership of Africa explorer Hans Meyer in 1898, but could also be considered as the actual discoverer of the Usambara violets. However, the violet got lost during the Arab revolt and since then colonialist Walter von St. Paul-Illaire has been regarded as its discoverer. When Binder’s mother dies in a Solingen old age home, Fritz does not only start a liaison with nurse Camilla Becker, a boxer in her free time, but also inherits Hagenbuch's papers and a sum of money, which allows him to venture to the Kilimanjaro together with his friend Michael whom he has known since his youth: both want to participate in the "Kilimanjaro Benefit Run 2006" in aid of the melting glaciers of the mountain.

Because of an injury Michael has to stay at home at the last moment, while Fritz who with his restless legs syndrome is more or less predestined for a marathon undertakes a journey, which brings close to him the adventures of his great-grandfather with all its ramifications and strains. The journey becomes a trip that brings him to his physical limits. Through a number of confused associations the narrator gradually melds with Hagenbuch; yet even after the letters by the great-grandfather have been deciphered it remains unclear, whether Leonhard Hagenbuch indeed participated in the adventurous expedition long ago or whether everything is just invented. In the end, Fritz Binder has to abandon his ascent because of altitude sickness, and thus plagued by delirious fever fantasies only manages to reach seventy eighth place in the Kilimanjaro marathon, a grotesque mass event of extreme sport in a world, where no white and undiscovered spots are left.

    Christof Hamann: Usambara

    The narrator of this novel is no hero. Professionally, he never made it beyond postman.More ...