Geschrieben am 31. Dezember 2021 von für Highlights, Highlights 2021

Anna Hoffmann, Stephen Hunter, Adrian Hyland, Bernd Kliebhan, Nick Kolakowski


Anna Hoffmann: „Dat geiht nirgends so verrückt to as op de Welt.“  

Für die Menschen des Südens, der auf jeden Fall und schon immer hinter der Grenze von Mecklenburg begann, etwas ausführlicher:

Achtung, Judith Rakers Stroboskophaar flackert gleich los! … ich erinnere mich an kein anderes Jahr, in dem ich interessierter an der Tagesschau gewesen bin und sie öfter verpasst habe. Irgendwas war immer. 

Und 2021 brachte noch mehr Irrsinn als 2020, mehr Arbeit, mehr Aufwand für die Alltäglichkeiten. Ich gehöre zu denen, die keine Zeit hatten, neue Sprachen zu lernen oder ausgedehnte Spaziergänge zu unternehmen, selbst das Laufen ist mir irgendwann abhandengekommen, die Kilos stapeln sich auf den Hüften, Anti-Corona-Schutzwälle …

2021, Jahr meiner Leseaskese. Dabei aber waren auch: Edi Zollinger „Herkules am Spinnrad“, Theodor W. Adorno „Erziehung zur Mündigkeit“, Merle Kröger „Die Experten“, „Faultiere“ aus der Naturkundenreihe, Hiram Kümper „Der Traum vom ehrbaren Kaufmann“, Candice Fox „Dark“, von Ulrich Koch „Dies ist nur der Auszug aus einem viel kürzeren Text“, von Dincer Gücyeter „Mein Prinz, ich bin das Ghetto“ und jetzt sind „Pariser Skizzen JE TE FLINGUE“ von Ulrike Schrimpf mit Illustrationen von Johanna Hansen dran.

2021, mein Buch VLUST, Gedichte über Verluste, ist im Hybriden-Verlag Berlin erschienen und das zweite Heft DEA EX MACHINA aus der Reihe T o T in Kooperation mit der französischen Künstlerin Nadja Holland ist raus. Und? Nichts Und. Alles wie immer und weiter geht’s ins nächste Jahr: Heft 3 ist in Arbeit, ach ja, im November 2021 hab ich angefangen ein Stück zu schreiben … es wird schön blutig und im Kern lustig vor Verzweiflung … und ich habe mir eine Webseite gebaut (für alles gibt es ein 1. Mal)

2021 am 2. November starb Marie T. Martin. Sie wurde 39 Jahre alt. Bis dahin hatte ich nichts von ihr gelesen … dann dieses Gedicht 

(Dies ist das Paradies)
Dies ist das Paradies nicht wahr
es gibt kein anderes dies ist
du hast die Milch nicht ausgestellt
dies ist vom Weg kein Anfang und kein Ende
dies ist nicht wahr und auch die Stiefel
sind voll Schlamm dies ist hier blüht
im Dunkeln eine Flüsterlilie
die Formeln kennt für die Enthüllung
dies ist das Paradies nicht wahr das Licht
das Leuchten Verbindung und Veränderung
in allen Zellen dies ist das Telefon es klingelt
schon seit Stunden dies ist das Paradies
nicht wahr

und nun habe ich alles, was ich finden konnte, gelesen. 

2021, so schnell wie dieses Jahr zerbröselte mir noch keines unter den Fingern, ich bin jetzt 50 … und ich hoffe, wir werden miteinander älter. Cheers!


Stephen Hunter: „Old Henry“

No western has arrived in years more slathered in true grit than „Old Henry.“  It’s everywhere, metaphorically, of course, but also literally: on the lens of the camera, under the fingernails of the cast, in the muddy pig pens and dirt-pie ranches of the decidedly unpicturesque Oklahoma hills of 1906. It’s a movie of the earth, not the sky, lacking John Ford’s majestic stone architecture against the blue expanses and towering clouds of Utah. 

    The director is Potsy Ponciroli, whose work, assuming there is any, I’m not familiar with. He’s of anti-pictorialist bent but not of anti heroic bent. His main man is of much grit, all of it true in the deepest sense. He is slouchy, feral, squinty, filthy, hard-working, given to extravagant Victorian pronouncements apposite to 1906 –„I’ll not have my baggage unpacked by a man of your caliber“ was my favorite — and deadly as a snake.  

    Henry (Tim Blake Nelson, embracing his born-in-Oklahoma reality in a way the Coens only allowed him to play out ironically) is a hill country hog farmer and widower. With his late-teen son (Gavin Lewis) he ekes out a living in those squalid hllls among vast herds of oinkers. The sturdy story, written by Ponciroli himself, begins on the day he comes across a wounded man, unconscious, with a satchel of robber’s loot. Henry hauls him back to the homestead, aware that explanations will be necessary.

    Meanwhile, in another part of the movie, a small unit of sociopaths, lead by a blowhard sheriff (Stephen Dorff), search for the wounded man, and track him to Henry’s. There they mean to recover the loot, by hook or by gun.

    Henry has other ideas. Blake gives the older man an imagination for mayhem, a shrewd eye for human behavior, and a skill with sixgun only experience could provide. He seems to channel the great Warren Oates in a performance of many layers, knitting his face up like Bruegel peasant as he carefully ponders his next move and you know he’ll always have a next move.    

„Old Henry“ finally comes around to present an old story, but still one of the best: hot-shot bad guys go after a little man, to discover he’s bigger than they are. And given a neat twist of identity at film’s end, he’s not just bigger, he’s MUCH bigger. Maybe mythically bigger.

    Far from great, but as tight as a gun and as fast as a high-noon draw, „Old Henry“ shows it’s still possible to make them the old way.

When Alf Mayer started a Stephen Hunter Portrait it grew into an eight part „Cultural History of the Sniper.“ Hunter’s translated „Der 47. Samurai“ reviewed here (please scroll a bit). His thriller, „G-Man“, reviewed here. In Germany, Festa is publishing Stephen’s works. 2021 saw Stephen Hunters Basil’s War, Jan 18th 22 is the publication date of Bob Lee Swagger #12: Targeted (working title: The Trial and Execution of Bob Lee Swagger).


Adrian Hyland: Eagles over our valley

2021. My god, what a year. Death, destruction and deceit everywhere we look. 

This has been one of those times when I thank the stars that I live in the serenity of the Australian bush. Our nearest neighbour is two hundred yards away, and there are more wombats here than people. That said, my wife works as an Emergency Department nurse in a major hospital, so we’re not that isolated and my thoughts have been filled with love and admiration for her and her colleagues all over the world.

All of this may be why my reading has veered towards the humorous: PG Woodhouse, Mick Herron and Raymond Chandler. The plots of most of these books are irrelevant; it is the language that matters, the quips, puns and metaphors. (I remember Mick Herron, for example, describing something as being ‘as rare as a unicorn, or a secret vegan’ Or Raymond Chandler? ‘I’m an occasional drinker, the sort of guy who goes out for a beer and wakes up in Singapore with a full beard’.).

I loved Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk and Geoff Dyer’s But Beautiful, books about hawks and jazz respectively. Maybe my most illuminating read for the year was Stephen Greenblatt’s biography of Shakespeare, Will in the World. It is full of insights into the way imagination interacts with the real world to create art. Greenblatt tells the story of how, when Shakespeare was a boy of eleven, a neighbouring village staged a pageant to celebrate a visit by the Queen. One of the highlights of the celebration was a mechanical dolphin leaping from a lake. Of course we’ve no idea whether Shakespeare was actually there, but years later, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he has Oberon describe ‘a mermaid on a dolphin’s back’. This is what the creative process is like: anything – the shellac radio in the kitchen, the battered boots by the door, a zigzagging butterfly – has the potential to be Proust’s madeleine.

This has, of course, been a dry year for other cultural events. Virtually no plays, concerts or readings. The cinemas are open now, but I fear they’re a cesspit of infection. Omicron is on the rise. I went to one event, a film society screening in our tiny town hall with about twenty people, all double-vaxxed and sanitized. Then the next day we were told somebody there had Covid, so we all had to get tested and isolate. 

Free-to-air television is full of cooking shows and idiots who want to be famous for no discernible reason. My daughter subscribed to Netflix, which was useful in helping me while away the long winter nights. I didn’t actually see any films, but sometimes, when I couldn’t sleep, I’d have a look at the Netflix menu, and what I saw there was so boring, I’d fall asleep on the spot. 

The viewing highlight of the year was observing the pair of eagles that occasionally float over our valley. And – does this count as culture? – seeing my Aussie Rules football team, the Melbourne Demons, win the Premiership for the first time in fifty-seven years. 

Adrian Hyland is the award-winning author of Diamond Dove and Gunshot Road. He lives in St Andrews, north-east of Melbourne, and teaches at LaTrobe University. His novels have been translated into German and were published by Suhrkamp as Outback Bastard and Kaltes Feuer. His new novel Canticle Creek was just published by Ultimo Press. In 2020 we had an exclusive excerpt from it and in March 2020, when editing a CrimeMag issue dedicated to the wildfires in Australia, Alf Mayer did an interview with Adrian. Adrian is a firefighter in real life and author of the very recommended Kinglake-350, a heartbreaking book about the worst bushfire disaster in Australia’s history, Black Saturday, 7 February 2009.


Bernd Kliebhan: Besser Hoffnung als Furcht

„Die Hoffnung führt uns weiter als die Furcht“ haben wir in unserem Weihnachtsgruß vor einem Jahr geschrieben. Wir haben uns daran gehalten und auch in den letzten 12 Monaten zuversichtlich nach vorn geschaut. Nun blicken wir zurück auf ein Jahr, das uns trotz eingeschränkter Sozialkontakte und reduzierter Reiseaktivitäten fast noch „voller“ vorkommt, als manche Jahre zuvor.

Die Pandemie hat zwar die Zahl der Kontakte (und der Restaurantbesuche) verringert, doch die Intensität deutlich gesteigert. Deutlicher als jemals zuvor wurde uns klargemacht, wie wichtig das Miteinander und der Austausch mit anderen Menschen für jeden von uns sind. Und die Entschleunigung – sie hat uns auch gut getan und das eine oder andere Türchen aufgemacht zu neuen Erfahrungen. Wir hoffen, dass auch Ihr voller Zuversicht in das Neue Jahr starten könnt und wünschen allen Frohe Feste, Gesundheit und ein glückliches Jahr 2022!

Bernd Kliebhan – inzwischen im Ruhestand – war Fernsehmacher aus Leidenschaft, lebte seine Passion als Reporter, Redakteur, Moderator und Trainer beim Hessischen Rundfunk aus, brachte zusammen mit Jan Metzger ab 2001 das erste Videojournalisten-Projekt eines öffentlich-rechtlichen Senders ans Laufen, war immer wieder gern als Trainer und Berater im In- und Ausland unterwegs – u.a in Tunesien, Kamerun, Ghana, Oman oder Madagaskar. Oft zusammen mit seiner Frau Nina Thomas.


Nick Kolakowski: 2021 in Crime Fiction – From the Urban to the Rural… to Outer Space

For many people around the world, 2021 was yet another year of uncertainty, marked by long periods of self-isolation and working from home. Fortunately, it was also another year of great crime fiction to help see us through. American crime fiction has only grown more diverse with every passing year, offering a plethora of new perspectives alongside the usual violence and murder. Here are three crime-fiction novels I particularly loved—one set in the urban past, another in the rural present, and a third in the galactic future. 

If you’re interested in historical crime fiction, you can’t find a better example of the subgenre than Colson Whitehead’s “Harlem Shuffle,” which recreates 1960s New York City in exacting detail. While many crime-fiction authors choose either a hardcore criminal or an innocent victim as their protagonist, Whitehead decides to center his novel on someone who lives in the liminal space between legitimate enterprise and the underworld: Carney, a Harlem furniture-store owner who acts as a middleman between the neighborhood’s thieves and those willing to buy stolen property. But can he survive while trying to play all sides at once?

A two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Whitehead is adept at sketching out a character’s personality in a sentence, as well as moving the action along at lightning speed—a high-stakes heist at a hotel, early in the novel, is a highlight. His prose brings a long-gone era of Harlem back to glorious, sometimes bloody life.

On the rural side of crime fiction, S.A. Cosby’s “Razorblade Tears” dominated the year’s bestseller charts as well as the annual best-of lists. The novel follows Ike Randolph, a middle-aged father (and ex-convict) whose gay son is gunned down by persons unknown. Determined to get revenge, Ike teams up with Buddy Lee, a violent redneck whose son was married to (and killed alongside) Ike’s son. The two men fight against their own prejudices as much as the novel’s villains, tearing up a huge swath of the Virginia countryside in the process. Like “Blacktop Wasteland,” Cosby’s previous novel, “Razorblade Tears” is a tense, beautiful, bloody book, filled with set-pieces and lines you’ll never forget. 

Heading into outer space, Cassandra Khaw’s “The All-Consuming World” is a treat for anyone who likes the idea of a science-fiction crime novel filled with snarky dialogue, intense violence, and operatic emotion. Thanks to cybernetic augmentation and genetic enhancement, the anti-heroes at the story’s core are no longer fully human—but they’re more than willing to endure enormous suffering (and blast their way through half the galaxy’s population) in order to save one of their own. “The All-Consuming World” is the most inventively profane book I’ve read in ages, but Khaw’s prose style overall is a marvel, dense with hilarious description and inventive metaphors. 

Nick KolakowskiLove & Bullets ist 2020 in der TW-Edition bei Suhrkamp erschienen. Die Besprechung von Hanspeter Eggenberger hier. Nicks Texte und seine Kolumne „Gunsmoke“ bei uns hier.

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