As Leo Böwe walks through the Kaiserstraße in Frankfurt in late autumn 1957 he hears about the murder of the high-class prostitute Rosemarie Nitribitt. The name becomes firmly fixed in his mind as the name of a lover he has never met. Böwe is about to start a job as sales representative for washing machines and learns the rules of the business: “Selling starts when the customer says no.”
Ten years later: Böwe has a daughter called Jule. They don’t really get on well with each other. When Jule sees Benno Ohnesorg shot and killed on television she decides: “Daddy, when I’m grown-up, I will shoot you as well.”
Five decades long Judith Kuckart’s great novel accompanies the life of Leo and Jule Böwe. Kaiserstraße is a photo album in words, in five stages it follows the development of the two contrary protagonists and at the same time it marks five turning points in the history of the Republic of Germany: 1957, 1967, 1977, 1989, 1999. And as the country changes its inhabitants change as well. It is a fragile career – because you can sell a lot of things, washing machines as well as ideas, values and politics. In the end you can even sell yourself.
English sample translation available
Judith Kuckart, born in 1959 in Schwelm, Westphalia, lives and works as a writer and director in Berlin. In 2002, her novel ‘Lenas Liebe’ (Lena’s Love) was published by DuMont and made into a film in 2012. DuMont also published her short story collection ‘Die Autorenwitwe’ (The Author’s Widow), 2003, the reprint of her novel ‘Der Bibliothekar’ (The Librarian), 2004, and her novels ‘Kaiserstraße’ (2006), ‘Die Verdächtige’ (The Suspect), ‘Wünsche’ (Wishes), 2013, longlisted by the German Book Prize, and ‘Dass man durch Belgien muss auf dem Weg zum Glück’ (That you need to cross Belgium to find happiness), 2015. Judith Kuckart has won many literary prizes, including the Annette-von-Droste-Hülshoff-Preis (2012).