Double portion of Schernikau

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 14.51.28I was very pleased to have come across Ronald Schernikau when I was doing a translation of the programme for the Deutsches Theater last year: they staged a ‘collage’ of his life of works, played by four different actors, all playing Schernikau at different stages of his life. It was a fun piece. Schernikau was a magnetic personality: this shines through his writing. He was taken by his mother in the boot of her car from Magdeburg where he was born to Hanover where her new lover lived: at the age of 6, after the Wall had been built. That had to be character-building.

Years later, he would return to East Berlin and try and become a citizen of the GDR – only a matter of months before the Wall fell. This is intriguing enough, but there’s something inspiring about kleinstadtnovelle (Small-town Novella), this queer author’s first published book when he was 19, and it is summed up nicely by the Frankfurter Rundschau journalist Jörg Sundermeier

“ein spektakulärer Text über ein unspektakuläres Coming Out. Denn seine Hauptfigur hadert nicht mit ihrem Schwulsein, sie hadert mit der Gesellschaft.” (a spectacular text about an unspectacular coming out. Because his main character isn’t railing against being gay; he’s railing against society).

Schernikau was an “infallible optimist” who died much too young of AIDS. I’ll be writing a piece for Words Without Borders later this month that focuses on his fascinating life and work.

I am very grateful to both the good people at no man’s land and Words Without Borders for printing my translation of this spectacular text. I thoroughly enjoyed the work.


Lucy Renner Jones



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