Im Spinnhaus; In the Spinning House (2003)
Im Spinnhaus (2003) is set in Neuwelt, a suburb of the town of Schwarzenberg, in Saxony’s Ore Mountains, near the German-Czech border. The title of the novel is a play on words: on one level, it refers to a mill where fabric is spun and woven on mechanical looms; on another level, the verb ‘spinnen’ also suggests a madhouse or a lunatic asylum.
The novel traces the lives of the inhabitants of Neuwelt from the late nineteenth century to the present; the provincial setting offers a crooked perspective on German history. The interconnected stories move from personal histories to large-scale ‘history’, e.g. the Free Republic of Schwarzenberg which was founded after the capitulation of the Wehrmacht on 8 May 1945, and which lasted for 42 days before the Soviet occupation began. This episode is depicted in detail in Stefan Heym’s historical novel Schwarzenberg (1984). In Hensel’s text, the provincial setting of Neuwelt provides a test case for wider socio-cultural shifts in German society from the Wilhelmine period to the present day.
Further Reading in German
Inga Probst, Vakante Landschaft. Postindustrielle Geopoetik bei Kerstin Hensel, Wolfgang Hilbig und Volker Braun (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2016)