We’re All Damaged
In Friedrich Ani’s latest novel, Fariza Nasri, the Munich inspector with Bavarian and Arab roots, is convincing as an observer and listener. She sees deep into the dark sides of those she deals with as well as her own.
By Holger Moos
Friedrich Ani divided his novel Letzte Ehre (Last Respects) into three parts and an epilogue. His inspector Fariza Nasri first turns her attention to the disappearance of 17-year-old Finja. Finja’s mother’s boyfriend soon turns out to be highly suspicious but during the investigation, Nasri also comes across Ines Kaltwasser, an older woman who had been abused by the suspect’s father when she was young. To top it off, Nasri’s best friend is brought to hospital with serious injuries.
Ani has fit many different stories and characters into his novel. At the centre of the plots is Inspector Nasri – a person who is not entirely balanced and suffers from her inner contradictions. “Sometimes I think the only true thing in my life is the lies. My lies and those of the others who I’m forced to listen to.”
When I speak, I crumble into dustShe is known as incredibly patient and a good listener; able to coax words out of suspects that they actually don’t want to say. But even Nasri’s patience has its limits, especially when she comes up against macho men. Their complete contempt for women is expressed in simple and hence all the more brutal statements, such as when a suspect bluntly reveals his view of the world and of women to the inspector: “The whore’s testimony is worthless, just like all of her.”
The investigator behaves quite differently when she lets a battered woman like Ines Kaltwasser tell her life story. Nasri then becomes is a mixture of therapist and confessor – with an incorruptible view of the essence of her counterpart: “This woman was a five-foot-five, eight-stone silent cry for self-liberation and redemption.”
Nasri’s empathy stems from the fragility of her own personality as expressed in a kind of inner monologue:
“When I speak, I crumble into dust...
When I speak, everything comes to light.”
TOXIC MasculinityIn addition to the realistically laconic dialogue and the skilful elaboration of very different characters, Ani also shines through his use of street and police jargon. For example, we learn that a patrolman is called a pavement stag, a higher-ranking CID officer is a gold pheasant.
Ani has written a dark novel about toxic masculinity and violence against women. He leads his readers to the conclusion that no one survives life in today’s society unscathed – or, as Fariza Nasri puts it: “We’re all damaged, each in our own way, and we conceal our damages, each in our own way.”
Friedrich Ani: Letzte Ehre
Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2021. 272 p.