Leif Randt: Allegro Pastel (2020)
This is a story about happiness. About Tanja and Jerome, about reality and badminton, about ideal states of affairs and other people’s weddings. A late 2010s love story. Tanja Arnheim, who lives in Berlin and whose debut novel was a cult hit, will be turning thirty in a few weeks. Her boyfriend Jerome Daimler, a much sought-after Web designer five years her senior, lives in his parents’ bungalow in south-west Germany, and is striving to attain a more spiritual, meditative understanding of life. The couple’s long-distance relationship seems flawless. They remain in close contact through text messages and video calls, and visit for long weekends that they spend immersed in the other’s reality. Jogging in pristine natural surroundings, meditating, a constant ebb and flow of communication, sex-positive nights out in Berlin – Jerome and Tanja are there for each other, but without ever losing their self-sufficiency and independence. Their parents, friends and Tanja’s severely depressed sister hold up a mirror of suffering, to which Tanja and Jerome themselves remain largely impervious. But the desire to conserve their affection for each other without it becoming conventional or painfully, existentially serious poses a great challenge for the couple.
Allegro Pastel, nominated for the 2020 German Book Prize, is the story of an almost ordinary love and its transformations.
Zi-Fan Shieh: Me and the Refuse Truck I’m Always Following (2019)
Zi-Fan Shieh tells the story of a woman who lives alone, has no family or romance in her life and sees nothing positive when she thinks about her future. Although she’s too busy to take out her own rubbish, she’s spent years taking care of that of her colleagues and boss. And she also takes her manager’s dog out for a walk each day. Eventually, she asks herself, ‘Is this the life I want?’ She quits her job and turns her attention to her ‘own rubbish’, which she now has time to deal with. When she sees the refuse truck slowly driving off, she realises that she hasn’t only cleaned out her home, but also purged herself of her past. But now she is faced with a new question: ‘What life do I want to live?’