Daniela Krien’s debut novel Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything (German title: Irgendwann werden wir uns alles erzählen) was a success in Germany and has already been translated into 15 languages, one of which English. That’s why I thought I’d like to see for myself if it’s really that good. I’m not sure the book won me over as a whole, but I liked a lot of the elements and the end packs a real punch.
The narrator Maria is a young woman of 16 who is living with her boyfriend Johannes on his family’s farm. It’s 1990 and the Berlin wall has just fallen. The novel begins shortly before the reunification of Germany. What makes the story interesting is that it’s set in Eastern Germany and that we see the end of the former Democratic Republic through the eyes of the people who lived there. The author grew up in the country, in the former DDR, so she knows what she’s writing about.
It’s odd that Maria is living with her boyfriend’s family and not with her own but we learn later that the mother has been left and that Maria can’t stand her sadness anymore. It’s far livelier on the Brendel’s farm. But even though it’s livelier, there are tensions as well, and just like in her own family, there are family secrets.
Maria and Johannes are still going to school but Maria stays at home most of the time, hiding somewhere, reading Dostoevsky. She’s often sad as well, prone to mood swings, but she is a keen observer and a kind girl. She want’s to help and make her stay worthwhile for everyone.
Not far from the Brendel’s farm is the farm of the Henners. Henner is a forty-year old guy, a brute, as they say, a man whose wife couldn’t stand his company anymore and who has left him. He’s said to be violent and drinks like a fish. He comes to the Brendel farm occasionally because they have a small farm shop. Maria watches him and Marianne, Johannes’ mother. Marianne seems to have a bit of a crush on him. Maria herself is fascinated and before long, without thinking of the consequences, she’s having an affair with him.
Their love affair is one of those dark maelstrom passions. They try to fight it but to no avail. Maria feels extremely guilty, but at the same time she cannot let go. What they share is too deep. It’s passionate, violent, but it’s also more than that. Henner opens up, tells her his life story.
At first their affair is all about sex but later they are content to just read Dostoevsky and Trakl together. Henner even tries to get sober.
They way this is told is quite appealing. The beginning is strange but after a while, you feel sucked in and read more and more quickly.
I have never read a novel about the end of the former Democratic Republic from the point of view of someone who lived “over there”. I really liked how Daniela Krien captured this. Just imagine: one day the authorities decide that your country will not exist anymore. Even though it might be for the better, it would still be a shock. There are many small details which show that and they are well rendered.
I was surprised that Maria was allowed to live with her boyfriend’s parents and that they shared a room and a bed, but then I remembered that the attitude towards sexuality is said to have been much more liberal in the former Democratic Republic. I watched a talk show on German TV a few years ago with athletes from the ex-DDR and they mentioned that for them one of the strangest things was how sex was handled in Germany. They said they preferred partenrs who came from the former Democratic Republic because they were more liberated. Judging from this novel it certainly seems as if there had been quite a difference.
The title is a Dostoevsky quote taken from the Brothers Karamazov. The book contains a few quotes from Dostoevsky, others are taken from Hamsun. Henner repeatedly quotes Trakl’s poem Song in the Night. Trakl is an Austrian poet. His poems are beautiful but gloomy.
If you like dark love stories you’d like Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything. You might equally like it if you have an interest in country life or life in the former Democratic Republic of Germany. The style is quite simple, most sentences are short. It’s not subtle but it works. The whole story is carried by the narrative voice, which I found haunting. The end alone makes it worth to read the book.