ProtectorateThomas von Steinaecker
Frankfurt am Main: Frankfurter Verlagsanstalt, 2009
Paperback Edition: btb Verlag, 2011
It is 1913. Henry Peters, a young German-American, goes to Africa along with his bride and the architect Gustav Selwin, escaping his parents' wish that he should take over his father's real estate branch in Berlin. He wants to work as Selwin's assistant in the construction of the Benesi settlement in the German colony of Tola. But the boat sinks on the coast of Tola and Henry is the sole survivor. When he arrives at Benesi, Henry adopts Selwin's identity and develops magnificent plans for the future city. Hitherto, it had simply been an old fortress, inhabited by a few Germans who planted a German pine forest in the middle of the jungle with the help of the Bremen Colonial Company and a few dozen Black workers. Now they are dreaming of a splendid future for their Benesi.
The administrator, Ludwig Gerber, is the disinherited scion of a logging dynasty from the forests of Bavaria who is trying his luck in the colonies. Then there is Käthe, his sister, whose marriage in Germany broke up and who followed her brother to Tola. The officer Schirach is in command of a small colonial army that consists mainly of black soldiers. Dr Lautenschlager, a travelling researcher, spends some time in Benesi before leaving on yet another, this time fatal, journey. Dr Brückner, the drug-addict doctor, also dies – of an overdose. And the Benesi project just doesn't want to get off the ground. The Tola colonial administration boycotts the settlement and there is no sign of the long-awaited settlers from Germany. All these factors have the small community all on edge. When, towards the end of the novel, a boat with settlers from Germany finally arrives and it seems that things may still turn out for the best, the entire forest and the newly built town are consumed in a raging fire. And soon afterwards, the First World War having broken out, French troops finish off the rest.