“Hausfrau” — the Female’s Opinion

Color photograph of the Nana fountain/sculpture, which stands in an expanse of reeds with anchored sailboats in the background. The huge, colorful sculpture of a voluptuous woman/angel/bird has water jets along the upper edge of its wings and on top of its bird head. Lime green, royal blue, and fire-engine red colors dominate on the glossy surface of the huge polyester sculpture.

L’Oiseau Amoureux, 1993, a wonderful Nana fountain sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle**  at Murten Harbor, Switzerland
Photograph copyright © 2008 Mignon Naegeli

While my hometown in Tennessee is suffering from heat and humidity, we escaped to the nearby mountains of North Carolina.

Preparing for days without Internet and all the interferences needed by modern humans, the Female planned ahead and downloaded several books. One she discovered ,  a book that was # 16 in the New York Times Bestseller List this week ,  bore the German name “Hausfrau.” Intrigued by the familiar word from her past and her native tongue, my Female downloaded the teaser without much research.

Reading the first few pages, she uttered loudly, “I know these people, everyone of them, in a weird, abstract way!”—I wondered …

My Female’s eagerness to learn more about this story was satisfied soon after purchasing the book* for its modest price.

Mick and Keith’s song; Leo’s Karenina; combined with Carl Gustav; intensified by sex, self loathing, and discontent with a foreign and unfamiliar place that Anna feels impotent to call home—it might become a great moneymaker.

Using shiploads of sophisticated words and expressions rather unfamiliar to the average bookworm, will be a bitch for the poor translators who have to sell the book to their native readers. (The release of the German translation has been announced for September 2015.)

As for style, Joyce it ain’t.

The story, as my Female sees it, tells about a woman who married a Swiss, moved to a town near Zürich, and unloads her misery on her psychoanalyst and the reader alike.

It’s obvious that the writer spent some time in the area, strolled the streets of this beautiful city, coaxed episodes from sources—that’s what most humans do, right?—returned to the United States to eventually embellish her frustrations about her stint abroad, by writing Hausfrau.

Anna, is a Tolstoyish figure. We can recognize her whenever we learn about lost souls in the past, present, or future, who languish for whatever reason in chasing unfulfillable anticipations. We encounter straits of such characters in stories dealing with persecution, refugees seeking asylum, greed for better jobs, boredom, love, adventure, escape; life.

Most of the author’s historical facts, anecdotes, and allegories attributed to Swiss characters sound familiar to a native Swiss citizen. Yet, that’s what they are. Common knowledge, nothing new, maybe quoting a shrink or a tour guide, some party gossip—vaguely.

The writer concludes her acknowledgements, “please—I beg of you—seek help.”

I, Basquiat, prefer that you, my devoted reader, make your own decisions. Or stay home. Anyway, it’s a tale.


*  Jill Alexander Essbaum, Hausfrau, 324 pp. Random House

** Niki de Saint Phalle is the artist of the sculpture L’Ange Protecteur (1997) at Zürich’s main railroad station, described in the book Hausfrau, which mentions neither the artist’s nor the scultpture’s name.

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