Katharina Faber was born in 1952. Strange Signals, her second novel, was published in 2008. It is in its fourth German printing, has been translated into Chinese, and was adapted for theatre by the North by North West Kulturprojekte.
Featured Reading Group Title
Fremde Signale (Strange Signals)
Michail, Linette, and Boris died young. Michail is a Russian soldier shot in World War II. Linette, a French peasant girl, contracts an infection while caring for her dying sister. Boris dies of cancer in New York in 1951, just thirteen years old. These three are sent to watch over a little girl named Ali born in the 1950s.
As they watch Ali’s life unfold, the trio recount their own brief existences: their tragedies, their fleeting pleasures, their unrealised dreams. Faber inhabits them with sincerity, fleshing out the contradictions of the USSR under Stalin, the hardships of preindustrial agrarian life, the strivings of an immigrant family in New York. With this vast temporal and geographical territory come equally wide-ranging insights into human experience. Unexpected commonalities, divergent perspectives.
Though we readers hear the increasingly intricate web of voices, there’s one person who can’t: Ali. Her guardian angels can’t speak, their signals are strange to her. As Linette says of the observers at an autopsy: “Some of them feel exalted when faced with the corpse. That’s so typical for living people, at first they feel a little superior to the dead, until they realise that the dead have become unreachable.” A book about how near historical experience is to us, and yet how irretrievable.
First recommended by Amanda DeMarco
- Fremde Signale is featured in our German-language reading group for Spring/Summer 2012.
- Amanda DeMarco’s translated extract from Strange Signals by Faber (159) is available for download.
- If you’ve read the book or translated extract, let us know what you think by commenting below.