Arnold Stadler

Excursion to Africa

von Arnold Stadler
Köln: DuMont, 2006.
ISBN 3-8321-7974-7
In the prehistory of the African excursion, Engelbert Hotz describes his life as the son to an "empire of cattle farming, country shop, butcher and guesthouse" in the small village of Hotzenwald. Measuring only 159 centimetres, he is constantly overlooked and is loved by no one. He considers himself useless. But when he saw a slide show made by a priest who was collecting for a mission in Guinea-Bissau, he started dreaming of Africa: "There were palm trees. And as far as I knew, there were real cannibals there. I wanted to be eaten. Sometimes I had just had enough of life. I felt that at least in this way, I could be useful. And something special". The "African island in my head" became a joint venture of longing and frustration, of heaven and pain, of a desire to save and self-denial, of escape and awakening similar to the great adventure of jumping from a high cliff into a deep lake. I was a refugee and a pioneer, an absurdity".

In the second part Engelbert starts to break after Adeltrudis, a nurse from a development aid programme on "Bissau Island" extends a formal invitation. After being stationed in Lisbon and Dakar for short time, he finally reaches the island and its beauty overwhelms him. He realises very soon that his longing will not be satisfied here. Adeltrudis who resides as a ruler in a Portuguese palace and is known as "Madame Mami" ignores him and he realises that the journey cannot release him from the pain of his own inadequacy: "The palm trees were basically the same. ...yes, it looked just like home. Instead of the German lime trees there were palm trees”.

    Arnold Stadler: Ausflug nach Afrika (Excursion to Africa)

    This novel tells the story of a desperate man that cannot find his place in a society characterised by performance and success. Engelbert Hotz is a "baddie" who "staggers between completely adjusting on the one side and disappearing into his own person and a rabid rebellion on the other side" (Anton Philipp Knittel, Critical Encyclopaedia of German Contemporary Literature) with a "violent longing".More ...