Dancing under the Copper Beech
Ivana hails from Bosnia and works as a cleaner in Frankfurt. Her clientele is a mixed bunch of impostors, artists, bohemians, bankers, wives real and fake; the loved and the lonely alike. But when war breaks out in Ivana’s homeland, the skies darken over the grotesque antics.
Slap-bang in the middle of the city, in a garden under the spreading branches of a blood-red copper beech, small-time businessman Rotzoff is organizing an elaborate party in order to pay off his debts by selling admission tickets. The evening marks the beginning of a danse macabre in which love, betrayal and jealousy are played out against a steadily darkening backdrop. The book’s narrator, a dilettante art historian, falls in love with fragile Winnie in the subway; glamorous Marusha is mistress to several men, including Wereschnikow, the busy organizer of a congress on the disintegrating state of Yugoslavia, and real estate shark Breegen. What all these characters have in common is their cleaner, Ivana, who keeps a firm handle on her clientele and is also meant to be supervising the party. But while her employers celebrate, war breaks out in the Balkans.
Martin Mosebach takes us by surprise with a quite uncharacteristic, truly innovative tone that shifts effortlessly between comedy and harshness, sorrow and irony. Between Bosnia, where a big wedding with a disastrous ending is celebrated in an archaic rural environment, and the bustling German metropolis of Frankfurt, Mosebach invokes a realm of poetic realism in his own inimitable language. He lures the reader ever more deeply into the stream of events – until the curtain falls on Ivana sweeping up the rubble of the jamboree with her habitual resoluteness.