Vielleicht Esther

© Mag/EtöĽubomír Jaško
In the shadow of the family tree
In: SME daily newspaper, 30 October 2015

Katja Petrowskaja: Asi Esther © PremediaAll the circumstances surrounding the book (and the author) threatened to distort the reading experience and put off readers. The recollection of the family history is often on the verge of sinking into nostalgia. The writer’s Ukrainian roots and her current life in Germany arouse the impression that this will be an emigration saga.

The literary narrative about relatives in connection with Mauthausen Concentration Camp and the Warsaw Ghetto might have lost its way in empty stereotypes of a kind you have already read a thousand times before.

But Katja Petrowskaja overcame all these hurdles with flying colours, and her book, fortunately, is of an entirely different ilk. She originally wanted to write something about peace, but kept ending up with the subject of war. She decided in favour of the German language, tantamount to liberation in the creative process. If she had written in Russian, she would have remained trapped in the moral polemic between victor and victim.

By using German, she demonstrated that in the book, the identities of perpetrator and victim were of no great importance to her. She struggled privately with the new language. Her willingness to take up this linguistic challenge and her courage have rightly been acclaimed by German-language readers and critics.

Katja Petrowskaja
Asi Esther (Original title: Vielleicht Esther)
Translation: Zuzana Demjánová
Bratislava: Premedia, 2015,
ISBN 978-80-8159-254-6