« It’s the story of a German family. My own, as it happens. » Jo Lendle
EINE ART FAMILIE
(A Kind of Family)
by Jo Lendle
Penguin Germany, August 2021
We don’t choose the times we live in nor the times that shape us. Neither did Lud and Alma. Lud, who was born in 1899, and his brother Wilhelm revere Bach and Hölderlin, and share the same unattainable ideals. Wilhelm, who joins the Nazi party early on, measures others according to its standards; Lud measures himself by them, which torments him for the rest of his life. Alma lost her parents when she was a child, and her godfather Lud – who is only a few years older than her – and his housekeeper become a kind of new family for her.
Lud is a pharmacology professor specialising in sleep and its induction, and while he spends his days at the university Alma is left home alone, unable to stop thinking about him. When he starts researching poison gas, he doesn’t tell her about it. His struggle with his lofty ideals grows ever more desperate – for he can’t get Gerhard, the man alongside whom he fought in the First World War, out of his head.
Taking us on a journey from the days of the German empire to National Socialism, the early days of the GDR and post-war West Germany, Jo Lendle’s scintillating novel is the story of a family falling apart, of guilt, of the meaning of science, and of the subtle difference between sleep, anaesthesia and death. It is the story of a German family – which just so happens to be his own.
Jo Lendle was born in 1968. After studying cultural education and animation culturelle, he joined the German Literature Institute in Leipzig, edited the literary magazine Edit and has been a visiting professor and lecturer at several universities. He was awarded the Leipzig Promotion Prize for Literature in 1997. Since January 2014 he is head of the Hanser publishing house.