Everything is fine

Julia Weber gives you back your childhood

When Anais and Bruno are at home, they do children's things. Children's things? So play, run, do gymnastics?

Yes, too, but more like this: Form a pattern from the breadcrumbs on the kitchen table. Use your fingers to pull the milk skin off the milk and wipe it on the underside of your stools. Blow on the hairs on the arms. Make toothpaste dots on your nose. And the chewing gum on the horizontal bar in the yard counted: 197.

"My little animals," says Anais and Bruno's mother, who is often unhappy and likes to smoke and drink a lot of wine. "My little animals," and then their face closes. Like the shutters on the shop windows in the city center.

And then the narrative Anais sometimes wishes for a different mother, one with a kitchen apron and soft, tired eyes. No dancing, drinking mother who sees the world as a construction kit, in which everything can be put together correctly and beautifully, if only one knew the beautiful and correct principle. Fine and right, for Anais and Bruno's mother they go together like holidays and wine and cigarettes.

And this is where “Everything is always beautiful” also begins: On vacation, which was originally intended to be alcohol-free, but is now occupied by a drinking, dancing mother in a red linen dress with gold buttons. And two children who - when their mother locks herself up in the bathroom, vomiting - just do children's things.

This mother needs a voice

That terrible mother! Julia Weber laughs and nods. She sits in front of Panaché and cigarettes on the Rhine and talks about her debut, which began as a short story when Weber was still studying at the literature institute in Biel. At that time, the little protagonist Anai was the only narrator of the story. And immediately the comments came from the fellow students: The poor children, with this terrible, alcoholic mother! All that was known about the mother's life was what belongs in the child's cosmos of daughter Anais. The rest was hidden. "I knew then that the mother also needs a voice."

And so “Everything is always beautiful” is made up of two voices: the voice of the 12-year-old Anais, who is in love with Peter, and the voice of Maria, who is in love with life, who, rather unintentionally, suddenly has a child and later another.

They are strong, independent voices that describe strong, independent universes, so close to reality that you think you are in the book with them. "We think about the fact that you no longer know where your own body begins when the outside is as warm as you are," says Anais once, and this is exactly how it is with the book, between the covers of which her life takes place : It is as warm as you are.

Actually, during this conversation on the Rhine, you wanted to find out a lot about this author, whom you only know from the corner of your eye: sitting at the typewriter, watching, typing, smoking. This is Julia Weber's job: she runs the literature service, you can rent her for parties or events and she comes, brings her old typewriter, and records what she sees. “Logged” is of course massively undersold. Weber writes beautiful snapshots, literary snapshots, short and sharp. And again: so close to life that you are touched where the word usually does not reach.

So who is this Julia Weber now, they originally wanted to know. This woman who manages to fulfill Christa Wolf's “I wanted to create a fabric that comes as close as possible to reality” credo so hard to fulfill that one can only sit in front of it breathlessly and hope that the story of Anais and Bruno, please, never, never end Just as you wish that your own life, please, never, never end.

And then just talked about the book.

This is what makes “Everything is always beautiful” so appealing: After reading it, you can't stop thinking about it, talking about it.

Besides, Julia Weber is also this book and vice versa. It grew out of her, she says, and no other name fits better: The story of Anais, Bruno and their mother reads like an organism that has outgrown this author, proliferates over the pages, untamed and free. Here not every sentence has been rolled a thousand times, here it flows, grows in many directions, a single, beautiful rhizome.

Words for the children's universe

At some point, probably shortly after you were as old as Anais, you lost it: the childlike closeness to the physical world. Much happens only in the head, reason almost always wins against the impulse, the head against the heart. You don't have to touch everything anymore, after all you know how it feels, you've touched it a thousand times.

As a child it is very different, you are very close to the world, you scrape your knees, you do somersaults on wet lawn, your tongue sticks to the frozen banister. You feel and smell and taste, every movement reverberates for a long time. Much, almost everything, happens for the first time, one is not used to the world yet.

Today one can still remember that time, probably wistfully, like Picasso, whose greatest wish was to be able to paint again as inexperienced as a child. One may remember, but it is difficult to describe them. As a child, because you still have no words for it, and as an adult, because you have too many words for it.

And this is exactly where Julia Weber comes in. Because she - and that is her greatest gift to the reader - has the words for it. For her, children's things are not just about running, playing, suffering from an alcoholic mother. For her it is breadcrumbs and milk skin and 197 chewing gum on the horizontal bar in the yard. With her it is the mother with the blinds on her face and the big little Anais who says: "When I walk, I feel as if I am hanging out of my side."

With Julia Weber, the child comes back in you, you remember the somersaults, the tongues and knees, but most of all you remember this feeling of being a child. And that is what Julia Weber should be in this portrait, which in the end was not really a portrait after all: the author who gives us back our childhood for 200 pages.

“Everything is always beautiful”, Limmat Verlag, 2017.

Incidentally, the drawings in the article are also by Julia Weber, they are sketches for the narrative and listed behind the story in the book.