Lärchenau; Lark Vale (2008)

Lärchenau chronicles a period of almost a century (1915-2007) in a small village in the Oder-Spree district of Brandenburg. This longue durée approach enables the novel to explore long-term patterns of recurring violence in German history, tracing connections between various forms of abusive behaviour and emotional neglect. The novel – in part, a tribute to Ingeborg Bachmann’s Das Buch Franza; The Book of Franza (1978/1995) – centres on the geneticist Gunter Konarske who conducts a series of medical experiments on his wife Adele. This history of domestic abuse is set within the wider context of other stories of village life, offering a series of thematic variations which refract and comment on the central storyline. For example, the couple’s son, Timm, is neglected and falls in with a group of neo-Nazis. He drowns in a botched submarine mission.

Further Reading in English

Garbiñe Iztueta, ‘Body and Grotesque as Self-Disruption in Kerstin Hensel’s Gothic East(ern) German Novel Lärchenau (2008)’, in Strategies of Humor in Post-Unification German Literature, Film, and Other Media (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2011), pp. 143-64

Sonja Klocke, Inscription and Rebellion: Illness and the Symptomatic Body in East German Literature (Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2015)

Ernest Schonfield, ‘Medical Experiments on Humans in Kerstin Hensel’s Lärchenau (2008)’, in Medical Humanity and Inhumanity in the German-Speaking World, ed. by Mererid Puw Davies and Sonu Shamdasani (London: UCL Press, 2020), pp. 164-89 [free open access PDF]