Homeland … Exit … Nothing More (excerpts)

By Johannes Jansen

Translation Stefan Tobler

Origin

Then Grell saw a bird outside his window and he saw how the bird threw its head quickly from side to side and was obviously concentrating hard on taking everything in . . . and suddenly the bird’s digestion fell out its rear, unexpectedly and without disturbing the bird in its jerky contemplation of the world.
Too true thought Grell. Jerkily and at length you contemplate the world and suddenly your digestion falls out your rear and you don’t even notice.
Just for a moment, imagine perching on a little bench at your parents’ graveside, caught up in jerkily observing the world and your digestion suddenly falls out your rear without it disturbing you in the slightest. What’s gone is gone, you say to yourself and think of your parents who brought you to birth in this country, and you are hanging around here and you don’t actually own anything any longer and to top it all you too are deformed thought Grell, it’s common knowledge that everything in this country is deformed . . .

Story

It’s night. Grell sits in front of his open window and he’s looking through the foliage of the cemetery trees at a flat opposite, that’s behind the cemetery, where a light is on and he notices in the bright rectangle of one of the flat’s windows a shadow swaying slightly as if moved by the wind. The shadow looks like the shadow of a figure who has hanged himself from the window beam. Grell isn’t completely sure, as the swaying foliage always covers something, but he thinks it quite likely that it’s a dead person and he must find it normal because he doesn’t do anything about it (what could he have done, he doesn’t even have a phone).
The next day he meets the lady who lives underneath him and not only is it the first time that day, it’s the very first time ever that the two have talked to each other. The lady tells him she saw a body hanging in one of the flats opposite. She’d only wanted to close the window and that’s when she saw him. She was so shocked that she couldn’t have done anything anyway but what could she have done, she doesn’t even have a phone. Grell says he’d seen the body too, though he hadn’t been a hundred percent certain it really was a body and wasn’t, say, a kind of bathrobe, to which she replied with conviction that she had immediately been a hundred percent sure because in a time when even she thought seriously every evening about whether it would be better to hang herself, then it was normal that in the house opposite you’d see someone who had. She had to go to the hairdresser’s now she said. By the way, she’s a blonde and of course Grell asks himself if she really is going to the hairdresser’s seeing as she supposedly thinks seriously about it being almost better to hang herself. But let’s remember the last picture of Marilyn Monroe. It supposedly shows her as she was found. Not that she hanged herself but you can see that she’d just got her hair done. So women are vain too thought Grell and thinking of this recalled a distant friend who he regularly used to go out for meals with. She too had stood in front of him one day and claimed she was going to kill herself. She said she was actually in a good mood right then but was afraid of going mad sometime. Anyway she didn’t want to end up an ugly cow (she was still young then). She was going to drive away to find one of those northern cliffs to plunge from, though in such a way that she would land nicely and if possible wearing white. She’d like to be immediately discovered and recognised as a beautiful and important body she said at the time but nevertheless went for a meal with Grell because near Grell there was a nice pub that was said to be the best thing imaginable. Not luxurious admittedly but good enough. They went there almost every week . . .
Grell doesn’t know if she’s still alive. He lost touch with her at some point because she stopped going for meals with him. After the Wall fell the pub went downhill anyway. You see one day (this is what they say) a West German undertaker came and said that he’d like to rent the pub’s cellar as temporary storage for coffins on their way from the manufacturer to the consumers. The pub had never been too full and the publican needed the money from renting the cellar. Yet after just a short while the pub was completely empty as it turned out that the undertaker hadn’t stored empty coffins in the cellar but coffins filled with corpses. Shortly after the undertaker had started using the cellar, which was directly underneath the bar area you see, the pub began to stink as if something were rotting . .

Melancholy

The woman was startled and brought herself up out of herself too
quickly too violently so that her face stayed in her two hands . . .
after r.m.r.

. . . a curious figure: courteous, to be sure, but afflicted by one tiresome failing. When he threw his hands up in front of his face (during one of those more and more frequent attacks) it sometimes happened that he couldn’t lower them for a good while, as his palms and the surface of his face, through that inexplicable overreaction or spasm, had formed a firm bond, making it impossible for him to take his hands from his face without also pulling off his face. It was as if upon coming into contact his palms and the surface of his face immediately turned into a strongly adhesive mush. He was left stuck in this attitude almost of mourning until of its own accord the spasm wore off, usually hours later, and the compulsively joined parts returned to their usual consistency and independence . . .