Whe realistic literature in the age of streaming can do even more than the best film series can? That must have been the question asked by the writer Rachel Kushner when she wrote her new novel, because it touches on several very popular topics in the new American series. Who, if he has not completely closed his eyes to the new development in the past ten years, would not immediately think of "Orange is the New Black" in a subject like "Women's prison"? For whom, when it comes to the unsatisfactory performance of public defenders, not the tough series "Goliath" or the satirical version "Better Call Saul"? For whom, when it comes to criminal police officers and law enforcement officers who tend towards self-justice, none of the countless films and series from "Bad Cop" to "Bosch"?
So what the literature should do even better here is really not easy to say because the fictions mentioned are so good. So well researched, so well summarized, and with the series format too: so finely branched into the supposed side stories. Precisely because these fictional formats have become so good, one has to say, back when reviewing the book at hand, that Rachel Kushner delivers everything that she can do in it. She shows us the reality of a "Northern California Women's Facility (NCWF)" with inside knowledge and laconic toughness, she knows what dialogues sound like and what the guards call the facility among themselves: "No Cunt Worth Forty K, no cunt worth forty giants "- alluding to the, as it is described here, the dilemma of those guards" between their job and easy play with the inmates ".
The author knows who wears branded shoes in this institution, who has the privilege of eating in the room, that correctly spelled tattoos are a unique selling point, how women brew liquor and how they communicate on death row. Kushner shows us a close-up of one of these young women, who is not thirty years old and has served two life sentences because she killed her stalker.
And then you have the answer to what this novel can do better than the film: it can permanently show us the complex, contradictory inner view of a character who was only a victim before she became a perpetrator. The one in her story fluctuates between anger and joke, and between the most hardened insights the literary sentence suddenly says: "The problem with San Francisco was that I could never have a future there, only a past." Whether that is realistic? If you do not believe this, you do not need to read the book, because it is essentially about the possibility that that young delinquent has a literary voice and, despite or perhaps because of her screwed up life, a poetic worldview. This will be fully expressed when the woman finally manages to escape from prison and seems to find her “place beyond the pines” in the California woods.
Kushner's desire for more, for poetic depth, is also expressed in another novel character, prison guard Gordon, who reads Thoreau's "Walden" in a lonely hut, but alternates with the diaries of "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski. This briefly flashing cross-fade between the romantic loner and the terrorist as a tipping figure in American cultural history would probably have produced an entire novel for T. C. Boyle; Rachel Kushner only highlights the ever-recurring question of what really differentiates people in the prison cell from those outside. There are, however, certain visible differences: Gordon, for example, reminds the colleagues of the “prison staff, many of them too fat to walk, of the obese twins from the Guinness Book of Records, twins with cowboy hats who moped from the bedroom to the kitchen to lead". This type of lightning-like insight, typical of Kushner's novel, is perhaps a unique selling point in literature.
Rachel Kushner: "I am a fate". Novel. From the English by Bettina Abarbanell. Rowohlt Verlag, Hamburg 2019. 397 pages, b., 24 euros.
. (tagsToTranslate) Rachel Kushner (t) Netflix (t) ISIN_US64110L1061 (t) Robert Bosch (t) Pine (t) Women (t) film series