Katja Petrowskaja: “Maybe Esther”


Katja Petrowskaja tells the story of her own Jewish family over several generations. Brings you the dead and Missing from the anonymity – and the many victims in Eastern Europe.

“I think her name was Esther, my father said. Yes, maybe Esther. I had two grandmothers, and one of them, Esther was called, exactly.”

Possibly this was the name of grandmother of the father, truly, Esther, Katja Petrowskajas great-grandmother, who remained in 1941 alone in the apartment, as the Rest of the family fled from the German army from Kiev. She was a Babushka for the father, mother to the grandparents.

Anyway, Maybe Esther made “” as they are known in Petrowskajas novel consistently, even though they can barely walk, on the way to the gathering place at the cemeteries. The Germans are here, and with them moved back in order. Exact instructions, “Clear, clear and understandable”. This impresses her.

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“Maybe Esther” by Katja Petrowskaja

Maybe it was also a “linguistic mistake”, so Maybe Esther was on the way, even though the janitor had not registered the disabled old woman.

“A lot of Jewish Old were proud of their English, and the Germans, thought they might be, in spite of all the what as already been told, what is flying through the air, and not more than a lie means that you, just you, are troops the next of kin of the Occupation, equipped with the special right of those for whom the word is everything.”

For the Germans there is no linguistic proximity, when it comes to those, for which you only have the derogatory word Żyd. 33,000 Jews were driven to Babi Yar and shot.

Execution of Kiev Jews by German soldiers in 1942

The family mosaic set new

Katja Petrowskaja grew up in Kiev, studied literature and Slavic studies in Estonia, got scholarships, so as to form at Stanford University and fours in Moscow promo. Since 1999, she lives in Berlin. She worked as a journalist for Russian and German media, among others, the taz, Neue zürcher Zeitung, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sunday newspaper.

For the word is everything. She writes in English, the “language of the Mute,” as it literally means in Russian. Maybe you allow not just this language, and the distance to the Ukrainian and Russian, she suspects yourself, the pain of the fates of the people in your family to pursue.

If there is in these “stories” so something like a red thread, it is the search of their family history, the Petrowskaja by Russia, Poland, Ukraine and Germany. According to Kiev, Babi Yar, Warsaw, Mauthausen, and in their own youth, to related track, connected mainly by their Judaism. And to survive through their determination, at least so long, until you find unknown relatives. Over seven generations, it combines all that most of them teach in a self-founded schools-and-dumb Deaf-and-under.

33,000 Jews were murdered in Babi Yar. In 1962, the site of the mass murder was leveled, today, is a cultural and leisure Park

From Gray to tell in a floating language

Katja Petrowskaja has broken up in this Tradition, the dumbness in your family. It took place in a light, floating language, the Golden key, to design your personal family mosaic. Everything you told is based on facts, research on site and in documents and is Fabulous, by the power of the Literary but to something almost.

That you are weaving the Achilles Say in the 39 sections of the “Maybe Esther”, on its own vulnerability to suggest in this Research, reinforces this impression. It manages to not let the historical burden of their substance crush. On the contrary, the paradoxical art piece creates, from the indescribable Horror of the past 20. Century with poetic beauty, and to tell very forgiving.


Katja Petrowskaja: “Maybe Esther. Stories” (2014), Suhrkamp Verlag

The writer Katja Petrowskaja was born in 1970 in Kiev. For the extract from the 5. Chapter of her later novel, as a narrative, “Perhaps Esther” presented, was the winner of 2013 at the Ingeborg-Bachmann-competition with the main prize.