“Lionheart”: monika helfer tells her brother’s story

After the successes of "The Bagage and" Daddy" Monika Helfer has written another novel about her family. In her new book "Lionheart the author tells the story of her brother Richard.

by Alexander Solloch

"On The Road Again by Canned Heat is the song Richard always listens to when he drives a car. He might get his driver’s license someday or never, we’ll see. He is not a rebel, but from authorities or other authorities he does not expect guidance for the real life. Anyway, he does not expect anything. He strolls along, and then something will happen.

A dog ran after him, one that had a variety of ancestors, a shaggy one, just above the knee, a sympathy was immediately between them. In front of the house, on the second floor of which he lived, Richard bent down to the dog and said and spoke to the animal in the tone first like a teacher to a student, then like a priest to an altar boy, finally like a comedian to a partner on stage: "Stay with me, don’t go away"! I call you, what do I call you, what do I call you, I call you: Shamash. You are my sun god. Be a guest in my lodge, and if you can, don’t shit me in a corner." The future would happen. One way or another. For man as for animal. One could at least put a stick in her path.

Monika Helfer’s brother: Richard, the artist of life

A young wise man, one might think, Richard, the narrator’s younger brother by six years, a bon vivant who spreads his arms wide open to the adventure of each day. Who climbs into a bathtub that happens to be on the shore of Lake Constance – perhaps as a watering place for horses -, pushes it into the water and sails across the lake in it, perhaps all the way to the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen, that would be exciting.

My husband, I mean my second husband, Michael, to whom I am still married, knew Richard well. Soon after we met and fell in love they became friends, I think Michael knew him better than I knew him. After Richard’s death, he said to me: "I know of no one who cared less about life than Richard." Why did he say that now, I asked, angry, because I did not want to hear something like that. The answer: "It would have been more interesting for him to fall over the Rhine Falls in a bathtub, than it is to survive."

A woman brings luck and misfortune in Richard’s life

Richard’s death: This is not a spring-scented story of someone who knows how to take the heaviness of life more lightly than the rest of us, or if he does, then at best on the surface of Lake Constance. He survives the bathtub adventure without a fuss. But the woman who rescues him from the water will be his misfortune, although she also, as bad luck charms often do, throws so much luck into his life. She shoves her child at him and vamooses. Richard, who had once been his father’s favorite, by this "lionheart" but couldn’t get more attention because of "Daddy", as we can read in the previous novel, disappeared completely from the world in grief – so Richard is suddenly a father himself.

He was a savage, a savage without human law was he. He loves the child, the child loves him, the mother does not love it, otherwise she would care, so he gets the child. Law of nature. From. That’s how he thought – a man who had a criminal record for marijuana possession. Who did not even know what the child’s real name was. The guardian of a child who didn’t know his own name. He was the best father but.

The unreality of a beautiful-sad life

That, in any case, is the truth of a moment, wrested from the unreality of this beautiful-sad life of Richard. Maybe everything was completely different? Monika Helfer wrestles with all the gaps, all the questions, wrestles with her memory, with the memory of her husband, the writer Michael Kohlmeier.

To him she promises: "When I’m done, I’ll take care of us again."
"No problem", he says.
"Then I go on now."

Yes. Monika Helfer must continue, this linguistic artist so overflowing with narrative wonders. Keep going – and please never be finished, always "on the road" stay on the road of telling..

On 23. February comes Monika Helfer in the context of the series "the north reads" to the Literaturhaus Hamburg to see "Lionheart" to present. You can find all information and tickets for the event here.

A woman and two men look at the book selection on shelves full of books and on stacks - picture at the Frankfurt Book Fair © imago/Rupert Oberhauser Photo: Rupert Oberhauser

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