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Mrs. Sartorisby Elke Schmitter
Synopses & Reviews
The street was empty. It was drizzling, as it often did in this region, and twilight was giving way to darkness-so you can't say that the visibility was good. Perhaps that’s why I was so late in spotting him, but it was also probably because I was deep in thought. I'm often deep in thought. Not that anything comes of it.
I was on the way home. I had been shopping in the town and had met Renate, who had come over to L. for the afternoon. We had a drink, really just one-two at the most. I knew I would be driving, and besides, Ernst checks my breath. Sometimes he does it for some reason that may have nothing to do with me. He comes out to meet me before I reach the front door, to relieve me of the shopping bags or some other excuse. He strokes my cheek with a kiss, inhaling deeply along the way. He doesn't know I figured it out long ago, because he prides himself on using his knowledge discreetly. This means he doesn’t reproach me immediately. He bides his time, even if it’s only for a minute-however long it takes me to make an excuse and get through the door. Or skip the excuse, if we're alone.
So I didn’t drink a lot. Maybe one, two sherries. If you're a wine drinker, the only thing they serve in Hirmer’s Caféeacute; is a Moselle, because Hirmer Senior, when he opened the place more than ninety years ago, was a Moselle fanatic, which was quite common back then. It's a big wine, and too sweet for us these days, and sweet isn’t even the right word. There’s something too full-bodied about it, it’s too heavy to drink with anything except meat in aspic, and they no longer serve meat in aspic at Hirmer's either. So when we’re there, Renate and I drink sherry. It tastes okay going down, and it’s cheap compared with Campari or other respectable drinks. We can hardly drink schnapps, because we're in L. after all, and I live here, and when a lady lives here, if she ever feels like having a drink for no reason and she's not part of some group, she orders sherry.
The first time I saw her was in Dr. Lehmkuhl’s waiting room. Dr. Lehmkuhl’s grandfather still had a big farm outside town, his father had been the first interim mayor after the war, and he himself had a major repu- tation as a neurologist. I was there because my nerves were in a state-or more precisely, because Irmi and Ernst had noticed. I set off in the car to buy bread and soap powder and came back with cigarettes, which Ernst gave up ten years ago. I forgot my godchildren's birthdays and pulled up the marigolds I’d sowed in the garden myself, because I mistook the stalks for weeds. Twice I suffered every housewife's nightmare of leaving the burner of the stove on with an empty pot on top. There are apparently electric stoves you can get now that switch themselves off before the pot melts and there's a catastrophe. But we had an old one, because that’s what Irmi manages best. She has her head together as well.
The two of them decided something was the matter with me. And they were right. That I slept badly at night and sometimes dozed off in the early evening on the sofa was nothing new. I could even make Ernst believe it had always been like that. He didn't know that I often woke up at one-thirty in the night and lay awake till morning, doggedly watching the peregrinations of the hands round the face of the alarm clock. The hands glow in
After being dumped by her rich boyfriend, Margarethe marries Ernst, a war veteran, and settles into a comfortable life in a small German village, but disaffection is not far away, and Margarethe soon finds herself embroiled in a potentially dangerous affair with a married man. A first novel. Reprint.
Elke Schmitter was born in 1961 in Krefeld, Germany, and studied philosophy in Munich. As a journalist she writes for Der Spiegel. Her first novel, Mrs. Sartoris, has been translated into thirteen languages. Her second novel, Minor Misdemeanors, was published in Germany in 2002. She lives in Berlin with her family.
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