Up on the roofs of Stockholm, a 21-year-old roofer is looking for freedom and adventure – and running away from his problems as well as from growing up. He is brought back down to earth not only by a fall, but also by love.
By Holger Moos
In the extreme sport of roofing, young people climb tall buildings and film their daring endeavours. Daniel Faßbender’s debut novel Die weltbeste Geschichte vom Fallen [The world’s best story about falling] tells the story of one of these roofers.
The nameless first-person narrator climbs across the roofs of Stockholm because he literally wants to be a step above the crowd rather than a “bored, ordinary zombie”. Referring to his climbing adventures as “small-scale heroics just for myself,” he is well aware of the dangers: “It’s no coincidence that we talk about soldiers falling and mean their death. Falling is dying.” At the same time, he meets a character resembling Astrid Lindgren’s Karlsson-on-the-Roof on one of the roofs and brings him marihuana for his “propeller rheumatism”.
The roofer as a social media starA climbing stunt on Kaknäs Tower, Stockholm’s tallest building, makes him famous when he manages to do a handstand on the antenna railing, 170 metres in the air. The associated YouTube video as well as the photos on Instagram and Facebook are viewed, shared and liked by millions.
However, during his preparations, he also meets a young woman named Bojana at the Sky Bar. She is from Bosnia, has lost her left lower leg in an accident and is studying political science with a focus on international law. The two fall in love, become a couple, move in together.
Not poser literatureAfter a fall that he is lucky to escape relatively unscathed, Bojana confronts him with a choice: climbing or her! But he is drawn to Vladivostok, where he wants to join a legendary Viper Crew and their leader Ikarus to climb one of the Russky Bridge’s 320-metre-tall pylons. Love or adventure, or the adventure of love, those are the questions he must confront. How close does the first-person narrator have to get to the line where falling and dying are the same, a line his father was familiar with as well?
Given his unusual subject, Faßbender could easily have fallen into the trap of writing his story in an overly sensationalist way, with a true hero of the heights. But at heart, his hero is a pretty normal adolescent who is trying to find his place in life, albeit a few storeys higher up than everyone else. Written in youth language, this makes his novel likeable, despite certain lengths and redundancies: It is not poser literature.
Faßbender, Daniel: Die weltbeste Geschichte vom Fallen
Klipphausen/Miltitz: Mirabilis, 2018. 240 S.