I would call it the attack dog of youth within us, which is anaesthetised or hypnotised (by books, films, music, theatre), mine most recently anaesthetised by Deniz Ohde with her novel Streulicht. I often felt alone when I was twelve or thirteen, even later. I was grown up, adhering to myself with anxious pubescent sweat, triggered above all by authorities who meant well for me but gave me the impression that I was different, that I belonged somewhere else, in another country or even on another planet. Then there were my parents, who had done a lot to allow me to grow up in the country where I didn't seem to belong, I shamed them, became the class clown, had a place in the community both as this person and as the worst pupil in the whole grade. What's more, I didn't associate anything nice with myself, neither externally nor internally. There were no words for this loneliness that some of you will remember at that age. By »this loneliness« I don't mean my specific loneliness, which was far more complex than what I'm describing here, because of course I was also cheerful from time to time, I mean your own loneliness, which perhaps couldn't be communicated any more than mine. Gradually, more and more bad things happened in my youthful life, because bad things attract more bad things, as is well known, and if I'm to describe moments of salvation, they were sentences written by someone else who was perhaps no longer alive, or if he was alive after all, or she or it, then probably also like me in no country or no city, but on this other planet. I read these sentences and found the words I was missing, but I still couldn't say them out loud.
The book Streulicht by Deniz Ohde was given to me by my partner when we were on a trip and I remember reading it under the bluest sky and in front of the vastest sea. I couldn't pin down what I was reading, it drew me in and between the book and me and this adolescent girl who had no words at the time emerged. I'd call that a great comfort, a stroke of luck, because we can also be comforted afterwards, something that became clear to me when I read Streulicht. I would like to recommend this book to all those who have de-sanctified their parents and still love them, to all those who were lost for words during their teenage years, to all those who are given the gift of opening a book where they can find the language that they themselves lacked. And so when I think today - two days after the start of the war in Ukraine or almost eight months after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, I could go on with this list - when I think today of the children and young people who, with a bit of luck, will grow up in a country that's safer than the one in which they were born, but which will initially be foreign to them, I want them to be able to read books like Streulicht that will comfort them right then and there or even years later.
Sarah Sandeh, Berlin, 26 February 2022