Campus - 22.02.2019 - 00:00
22 February 2019. This evening, a starry sky glitters through the cupola of the University Library. Conversely, the writer Kristine Bilkau does not look so far into the distance, but back – back to a time when mobile phones were still extremely rare, red peppers sounded exotic and women’s freedom was largely limited to deciding what was for supper. This is the 1960s, to which Hanna, the protagonist of the novel, returns a short time after her mother’s death. A porous heart, thus the diagnosis, as well as cardiac arrhythmia – and that was how her mother died.
Now the daughter wants to find out who her parents had been before they became parents. What kind of love was that between them? And who was that man with whom her mother had a brief, but passionate love affair? For Hanna never got to know this man, her father.
"My book has an autobiographical touch," says the author, who was born in 1974. And after her greatly acclaimed first novel, Die Glücklichen ("The happy ones"), she wanted to write a novel about how economic circumstances influence living conditions. "But then my mother died," and so Kristine Bilkau opted for a different topic. However, she did retain one basic question for this new story. It is the question about the influence of societal conditions on the course of life, about the possibilities of living a self-determined life and of enjoying a carefree love.
This is the life of the daughter, Hanna, an architect in the field of art, as successful as she is sovereign. Hanna belongs to a generation in which it is a matter of course that women are part of public life, in which women have the same freedoms as their male contemporaries. And then there is her mother’s life, upon which the daughter often casts a stern eye: her mother wanted to live unconventionally and yet was trapped in societal conventions. She never succeeded in freeing herself from her parents’ precepts. Thus her mother remained a romantic throughout her life, who could only be free in her dreams.
Taking leave by drawing close
The daughter’s story about the story of her mother resonates with profound compassion for the woman who did not live her life to the full and never got over a disappointed love. This gap in her knowledge, however, is not a matter that the daughter wants to allow to rest. This is why after her mother’s death, she tries to meet her unknown father for the first time. She wants to get him to remember his time with her mother. Their love should be revived in thought. Thus the daughter wants to return to her mother her time with the man of her life. Only by drawing close to her mother’s life and great love may the daughter succeed in taking leave of her mother.
During the reading and during the subsequent discussion with the audience, existential questions arise below the cupola beneath the starlit sky: questions about our relationships with our loved ones, about every individual being woven into the big picture. In the middle of all this, the notion of taking leave crops up time and again, and so do opportunities for getting over difficulties. How free are we? We can look forward to Kristine Bilkau’s next book about how economic circumstances influence our lives.
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