A lovely couple
An elderly man looks back at the lives of his deceased parents. They loved each other, lived in the GDR – and had to leave the country in haste. Their love did not survive that. A story told quietly and empathetically.
By Holger Moos
Philipp Karst, the narrator and son in the novel Ein schönes Paar (A Lovely Couple) by Gert Loschütz, is a photographer. Even in old age he views himself as a child of divorce. He recaptures his parents Herta and Georg thanks to the strength of his memory and imagination. He wants to get to the bottom of the story behind his parents’ separation, and embarks on a treasure hunt into the past. The realm of the dead offers plenty of scope for speculation. The narrator is also revisited by childhood dreams.
Autobiographical originThe novel is autobiographical in origin, as Christoph Schröder from ZEIT observes. Loschütz, who was born in 1946 in Genthin, transforms his place of birth into the fictional Plothow, and in the novel the town of Dillenburg in Hesse is called Tautenburg, the slate town.
Herta and Georg met shortly before the Second World War in Plothow. He is a soldier, she a beautiful young woman who dreams of a career as a model. But his parents’ biographical basis is by no means certain. The son creates his own images of their life. That’s all he can do really, since he only starts looking for clues after they have both died.
Philipp imagines his parents as a lovely couple. Loschütz also puts this image across in such a way that it’s clear how transient everything is. You see, the son imagines his parents at the burial of a friend when they already know that they will have to flee the GDR: “Although I wasn’t there I can see them as others might have seen them: as a lovely couple.”
Separated parents – divided townBut the parents separate. First the father moves out and then returns, next the mother disappears from the family home, just sending a few postcards without saying anything about herself. She only returns to Tautenburg 29 years later, where she spends her final years in a care home. An invisible border runs through the Hessian town for the son: “Back then it was as if the town was split into two halves, one of which was her territory and the other his [...]. They hadn’t made a specific agreement but the River Taute had become a boundary that only I was allowed to cross.”
At his father’s house or with his father, the son does not often feel secure, most of the time there’s a feeling of awkwardness. But he tracks down his father’s story as well, identifying the phases into which his life can be split. A period of misfortunes is followed by a time in which the father is invisible.
Life and love just happenPhilipp also contemplates the nature of love. His father goes on to have an affair with a married woman, although it soon ends. His father remains alone, which doesn’t even need a decision, it just happens that way: “Obviously the breakdown of the partnership following the subsidence of erotic excitement was just as unintended by the parties involved as the blaze of passion and desire for eternity culminating in a sense of togetherness felt by the young lovers had been.”
The novel begins with a reflection on the invention of the stereo camera, which can create the impression of a portrait with spatial depth whilst blocking out all other visual impressions. Couples and criminologists, writes the narrator, placed their hopes in this invention, “and ultimately both were disappointed”. We also hope to learn something about ourselves by looking upon the fount of times past, but we are disappointed every time too.
Loschütz, Gert: Ein schönes Paar
Frankfurt a.M.: Schöffling & Co., 2018. 235 S.
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