Marion Poschmann was born in Essen in 1969 and lives in Berlin. She won the Peter Huchel prize for her poetry in 2011 and in 2013 her third novel Die Sonnenposition (2013) was shortlisted for the German Book Prize.
Die Sonnenposition; The Sun’s Position (2013)
This is a poetic, meditative novel about a friendship between two men, both bachelors. The narrator is Altfried Janisch; his childhood friend is Odilo Leonberger, who still lives with his widowed mother. Altfried is a psychologist and Odilo is a biologist researching bioluminescence; he injects mice with chemicals in order to make them glow in the dark.
Odilo has died in a car crash, and Altfried learns that his sister Mila had a love affair with Odilo. But the details of these relationships only emerge gradually because these three characters are uncommunicative types who seem determined to preserve their autonomy.
Altfried works in a mental hospital in Sonnenstein castle, a real castle in Pirna near Dresden which functioned as a Nazi extermination centre from 1940 to 1942. The most famous inmate of the mental institution was Daniel Paul Schreber (1842-1911), who published a description of his own mental illness in 1903, which served as the basis for Sigmund Freud’s essay on paranoia published in 1911, in which Freud interpreted Schreber’s paranoia as stemming from a homosexual conflict.
Altfried feels afflicted by other people’s dreams (p. 149) and by the history of the castle, to the extent that the boundaries start to blur between him and his patients. Altfried’s father Johannes and his aunt Sidonie were born in the spa town of Duszniki-Zdrój and were orphaned at the end of World War Two. They were taken to Sonnenstein castle as war orphans, and Johannes had a hallucination of double suns, like Schreber (p. 226). His two children, Altfried and Mila, are both drawn to investigate their family history, and they go on a bus trip to Duszniki-Zdrój with their aunt Sidonia.
Altfried would rather have been a girl (p. 37). His hobby is trying to spot prototype cars known as ‘development mules’ or ‘test mules’ (in German, Erlkönige) which are disguised by car manufacturers when they operate on public roads.
The novel contains a number of literary references. The description of Sonnenstein castle as an ‘architectonic complex’ (pp. 220-23) recalls the ‘Herkunftskomplex’; ‘complex of origin’ associated with Wolfsegg castle in Thomas Bernhard’s novel Auslöschung; Extinction.There are also a number of allusions to homosexuality: the references to the Schreber case, to Goethe’s poem ‘Der Erlkönig’, and to Thomas Mann’s novella Tonio Kröger. There may also be a connection with the works of W. G. Sebald too, especially in the light of Helen Finch’s recent study Sebald’s Bachelors: Queer Resistance and the Unconforming Life (Oxford: Legenda, 2013).
Baden bei Gewitter (2002); Bathing in a Storm
Schwarzweißroman (2005); Black and White Novel
Die Sonnenposition (2013); The Sun’s Position
Die Kieferninseln (2017); The Pine Islands
Verschlossene Kammern (2002); Locked Chambers
Grund zu Schafen (2004); Ground for Sheep
Geistersehen (2010); Seeing Ghosts
Geliehene Landschaften. Lehrgedichte und Elegien (2016); Borrowed Landscapes. Learning Poems and Elegies
Mondbetrachtung in mondloser Nacht (2016); Moon Contemplation on a Moonless Night
Marion Poschmann, The Pine Islands, trans. by Jen Calleja (London: Serpent's Tail, 2019)
Web Links in German
Marion Poschmann reads her poems aloud on www.lyrikline.org
Review of Die Sonnenposition by Christoph Schröder
Review of Die Sonnenposition by Susanne Mayer