Eginald Schlattner: Wasserzeichen [Watermarks]

Presentation of

Eginald Schlattner: Wasserzeichen [Watermarks].

Pop Verlag, Ludwigsburg, 2018

According to Eginald Schlattner, himself his latest work „Wasserzeichen“, dealing with „nuns and fools, icons and names“, is a „Transylvanian picture gallery as translucent as watermarks“. Elmar Schenkel, on the other hand, in his review in the German newspaper FAZ (February 6th, 2018), comes to the conclusion, that the author has published his „life novel“. In any case, there are many interpretations as to the literary genre of this book. Comprising more than 600 pages, it is by no means an autobiography, let alone purely fictional.

Eginald Schlattner’s „Wasserzeichen“ keeps oscillating between the literary genres of fiction and nonfiction. The author establishes two narrative perspectives that are opposed to each other as well as following parallel lines. One line of narrative centers on times spent in a Romanian nunnery that he describes as „permeable to God“. Here he is able to set his mind to the question of guilt and forgiveness which has been haunting him all his life, while at the same time describing life at an Orthodox convent extensively and with an acute sense of humor. The second line of narrative deals with his years as a student at a high school in Kronstadt (Brasov), then Stalinstadt, and the persons closest to him. These lively individuals as well as the often hair-raising historical events, cast into a fictitious form, amount to a comprehensive portrait of Communist- Stalinistic dictatorship in Romania, the oppressiveness of which is felt throughout. Among the most lasting impressions of the book is the description of the radical existential insecurity inflicted upon a young man on the threshold of life which leaves him deprived of all confidence and orientation and condemns him to a permanent state of anxiety. Even the author’s first experiences of love, from shy to passionate, are overshadowed by these conditions and bound to fail in the end.

Still, the dark years of political repression and tyranny in Romania which are at the center of the book make an exciting, enjoyable reading. This is due in part to Eginald Schlattner’s „baroque“ love of storytelling, his joy of presenting a wealth of surprising and even amusing details. Full of humor and ironical at times, he is always able to keep a mental and emotional distance from the events described. Moreover, by choosing as part of the setting the confines of the Christian Orthodox convent Sfantu Spiridon and this own Lutheran vicarage in the Transylvanian-Romanian village of Rothberg (Rosia), near Hermannstadt (Sibiu), where the book was written between 2006 and 2017, he establishes a metaphysical and spiritual level of reflection, allowing him not only to confront himself with the Stalinist regime and its far-reaching consequences but also to deal with the question of his own guilt and his hope of attaining forgiveness in order to overcome his traumatic experiences.

In 2001, during the Poetry Festival in Erlangen, Sigrid Löffler said: „The history of the Transylvanian Saxons has clearly come to an end. But this end is exemplarily sublimated, as Hegel puts it, in the works of Eginald Schlattner.“ However, dealing with the vanishing of the ethnical group to which he himself belongs brings to his mind the upcoming end of his own life when he writes: „This is a last word at the end of my biography, the very final word. Will it be heard and how will it be perceived?“ In a letter that he wrote in 2016, the German critic Denis Scheck stated, that „… judging by all the works of Eginald Schlattner which I know I cannot but regard it as world literature.“

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