25.02.2009

Shanghai fern von wo (Shanghai, Far From Everywhere)

Ursula Krechel
Ursula Krechel - Shanghai fern von wo

Novel

There she is, standing in the middle of a restaurant kitchen in Shanghai, rolling dough as if her life depended on it, and actually, it does. She’s making a strudel, a sweet one of course, but then she fills the left-over dough with tender vegetables, and suddenly she has invented an addition to Chinese cuisine that nobody will want to do without: the spring roll.

Franziska Tausig is one of many, the book-seller Ludwig Lazarus from Berlin is another, and in the end, there were eighteen thousand Jews who were able to take advantage of one of the last loopholes after 1938 and survived in Shanghai, so far away, so foreign. They came without visas and illusions, with nothing more than a suitcase and ten Reichsmarks in their pocket, lawyers, craftsmen, art historians, and if they wanted to survive in this overcrowded city and its humid and oppressive climate, they needed to be inventive and energetic. Not everyone was able to, after all that lay behind and ahead of them.

Ursula Krechel tells all this in a breathtaking number of voices and layers. Years of research provided the material for a broad narrative which transports the reader into a world that is closer than expected.