What makes a pace bowler dangerous?

Literature - soldier lovers live dangerously

Soldier lovers live dangerously

Philippe Djian comes to Zurich with his new novel “Marlène”. In it he immerses himself in the milieu of the war veterans and in their battlefield of love.

“It smelled of kitschy and cheap, slightly flowery perfume, the decoration was ornate, the washbasins shell-shaped. Shortly after calling her a few times without success and daring to look over the toilet door, he discovered Marlène on a toilet bowl, motionless, leaning limply against the partition, like a rag doll, eyes closed, glasses crooked, a few more leaves soft pink toilet paper in hand. "

What does Dan do, who is on shift in the bowling center and is therefore not only responsible for the pins that fall and have to be set up again, but also for women who pass out in the toilet? He opens the toilet door with his master key, pulls the doll up and pulls up her underpants without looking. “He had to hold her close for a moment to keep her from falling over. He cursed to himself until he realized she was coming to. ."

This is Dan and Marlène's first hug. And maybe it is Marlène's inexplicable slump in the most inopportune moments that touches the traumatized war returnee Dan and at some point releases his own impotence. But Marlène has another problem: everything she touches breaks.

Zurich reads '18

Around 200 events with 300 authors will take place from October 24th to 28th. at the eighth edition of the festival in Zurich, Winterthur and the surrounding area. There are readings in bookstores, on the ship or in the tram, and in a car wash, and publishers open their doors. Julia Weber opened the festival yesterday with a speech on the thematic focus on “Breaks and Upheavals”. Info: www.zuerich-liest.ch.

Clichés from the master pen

Anyone who gets to know the eponymous heroine while reading Philippe Djian's new novel “Marlène” inevitably has to think of the much-praised soda lover Lili Marleen from the First World War - or of Betty Blue, the protagonist of Djian's cult novel “37.2 °” (1985). Betty Blue is also attracted to unhappiness like moths to light. But in contrast to her, Marlène does not look aggressively erotic, but like a disheveled wallflower. However, it is mainly the others - her sister Nath and her husband Richard, Dan's best friend - who perceive her that way.

It testifies to Djian's narrative mastery how he makes Dan and the reader's eyes open: the real Marlène is different. She knows what she wants - namely Dan - and she knows how to soften the stone he has become. It behaves like water, yielding, adaptable. And this is where the clichés begin. Marlène turns out to be a talented lover, but also senses when she has gone too far and has to leave the warrior alone. In order to optically optimize this man’s dream, Dan talks her out of the ugly glasses - whether she gets contact lenses for them in order to continue to see something is not explained.

Dan also seems pretty clichéd. He is the sympathetic, the good guy, while his friend Richard, who fought with him in Afghanistan, has taken on the role of the bad guy. Dan tries to keep his war trauma in check with medication and keeps himself fit with daily training; Richard blows everyone's ears about what he has experienced, pounds himself with drugs and gets fat. Dan has a regular job in the bowling center; Richard prefers to turn crooked things. Dan begins to open his petrified heart a little for Marlène; Richard abuses his wife Nath and his daughter.

These male figures are too clear, too unbroken. You almost want to combine them into a single person, a physically and mentally broken soldier who is trying to gain a foothold in civil life and goes through good and bad phases in the process. Maybe that would be more believable.

Destructive jealousy

Is it at all possible to become a civilized person again if you have seen murder and massacre, killed yourself and only survived by chance? The topic is exciting and topical. American literature is full of it; Sabine Gruber dealt with it in the German-speaking area in her novel “Daldossi or Das Leben des Moments” (2016). Her protagonist is a war photographer, with whom one cannot identify half as well as with Philippe Djian's ex-soldier Dan - this Daldossi is too torn - and with no hope of a cure.

Philippe Djian, on the other hand, gives the readers hope, together with Dan and Marlène. Their delicate, difficult love soon leads to complications between Dan and Richard. And even if Djian immerses himself in the milieu of war veterans in many scenes that are ready for film, their hardships back in normal life don't seem to really interest him. Rather, it is about the human condition in general, about the relationship between men and women in particular, and about jealousy as a destructive force.

"I have no message that I want to pass on," said Djian once, "for me it's all about style and language." He writes quickly as usual, in straightforward sentences and short chapters. And immediately it is there again, the Philippe Djian suction, which pulls you down and spits out with force at the end when the shot is fired and all hope is dashed.

Philippe Djian: Marlène. Novel. Diogenes, 279 pages.

Reading at "Zurich reads '18" on Thursday, October 25th, 8 pm in the Glockenhaus, Zurich.