In a Nutshell:
The German Room transported me to another place, it had notes of (Elena) Ferrante, Murakami and (Mario) Benedetti in this wonderful novel. The narrator of the novel is pregnant, she lives in Buenos Aires but escapes to her childhood home, the German city of Heidelberg to escape and clear her head. Heidelberg is where she was born and where her parents sought refuge in fleeing the Argentinian dictatorship, three decades earlier (parallels with author Maliandi’s own life). Upon reaching Heidelberg she realizes that she cannot return to her childhood but instead she needs to work out what kind of adult she wants to be.
I loved the style of writing, the pace, the observations, a novel that talks about displacement, emotional and political exile, desexilio*, family, being foreign, belonging, identity and self-love, I was a teeny bit disappointed by the ending but mainly because I didn’t want the book to end.
*desexilio: a phrase coined by the Uruguayan Mario Benedetti, the feeling of displacement upon returning to your home country (post-dictatorship) after years of living in exile in a foreign country.
Maliandi was born in Venezuela to Argentinian parents, her parents were forced to escape Argentina’s military regime. The German Room is her first piece of work to be translated into English, exquisitely translated by Riddle, the “ya know” is what sticks out for me and really made me connect the two languages in my head.
“I’m not here to study anything. I’m here to sleep, to get well, and to find a bench in Marktplatz where I can sit and think calmly and eat a pretzel.”
“The air smells like coffee, the sky is blue, the sun warms my face and for an instant I feel at peace, as if everything were in its place, as if everything were in perfect order.”
“No matter where I go I’m still broken. And now I’m thousand of miles from home, in a place where I can barely speak the language and I have no idea what to do.”
Stockists: Want to read The German Room? Buy it here.
The German Room
Written by Carla Maliandi
Translated from the Spanish by Frances Riddle
22/11/2018, Charco Press
#WITMonth for 2021 is curated by Jess Andoh-Thayre
I am 35, from London but currently living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I have lived in Tanzania, Chile, Spain and now Cambodia. I am married to a diplomat and we have been posted in Dar es Salaam and now Cambodia. Prior to meeting my husband, I had also lived in La Serena, Chile and Madrid, Spain.
I am a French, Spanish and English teacher, translator, avid reader and now blogger. When I am not teaching, reading and blogging, I love seeing a brilliant sunset, swimming and hanging out with my husband and son.
Author: Carla Maliandi
Carla Maliandi was born in Venezuela in 1976 and is the daughter of Ricardo Maliandi and Graciela Fernández who were forced to escape Argentina’s military regime. She is a playwright, theatre director, university lecturer and writer,she lives in Buenos Aires. She has written and directed five theatre plays. She has also co-written several other plays.
The German Room is her first novel and was chosen by several critics as one of the best books to come out of Argentina in 2017.
Translator: Frances Riddle
Frances Riddle lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina where she works as a translator, writer, and editor.
She has translated 4 books for Charco Press: Slum Virgin, The German Room, Theatre of War and Elena knows.
Her translations, interviews, articles, and reviews have appeared in The White Review, Electric Literature, Berfrois, Catch and Release, Asymptote, The Short Story Project, The Portable Museum, Palabras Errantes, Ventana Latina, and The Argentina Independent, among others.