Night Boat to Tangier – novel set in Algeciras and Cork (Waiting for Dilly)
Novel set primarily in Germany (Weimar, Dessau and Berlin)
12th July 2019
The Hiding Game by Naomi Wood, novel set primarily in Germany (Weimar, Dessau and Berlin).
1920s Weimar. An era of avant-garde art. Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky are in the city where previous great writers, thinkers and philosophers are still casting their intellectual and creative spell over the citizens. There is something eminently imaginative in the water of this city.
The Bauhaus movement was founded in Weimar in 1919 but with the rise of the National Socialists and their dismissal of its creative direction, it eventually moved to Dessau and then on to Berlin. It couldn’t be saved in Germany from the destructive political forces but by the time the school closed in 1933, its influence was represented all over the world. The novel The Hiding Game is set against the backdrop of the extraordinary times of the Weimar Republic. The Bauhaus School of Art encapsulated the period and became famous for its approach to design.
The novel opens in the 1920s when inflation is starting to be rampant in Germany. A group of six young people – “the Bauhaus Babies” – is studying at the Bauhaus school in Weimar, acolytes of their teacher Master Itten (who, the author stresses is fictional and combines into one single person all three Bauhaus directors – Walter Gropius / Hannes Meyer / Mies van der Rohe). He encourages them to experience, not merely visualise, their environment in order to truly understand the world and their place in it – their experience has to be thoroughly immersive; and thus they have their hair shorn, they fast until one of them falls over. And then they move on to sexual liaisons and to cocaine and alcohol. The National Socialists, however, are starting to gain a very strong foothold…..
Move forward several years post WW2 – to somewhere on the British coast – where Paul is now living. Irmi, still in Germany and one of the six, advises Paul (through whose eyes the story is recounted) that one of their group, Walter, has died. She would like Paul to return to Berlin for the service. But Paul has too much latent resentment. Walter was, he feels, culpable in the death of Charlotte whom Paul adored.
Charlotte initially had a relationship with group member Jenö. Paul struggles to shake off his insecurities about this charming, wilful woman, even once they are together. The lingering fear that Jenö and Charlotte still have a lover’s legacy preys destructively on his mind. The group dynamics are played out through the subsequent years, as the art school changes location for political reasons. The story of the six culminates as WW2 plays out its tragic course.
I read the author’s novel Mrs Hemingway and I found it engrossing and so well written. I remember it fondly. In The Hiding Game the author once again brings to life her chosen setting and era in colourful and well researched prose. In this novel the exquisite detail and swathes of a beautifully penned narrative make for a rich and rewarding read. However, the characters just left me surprisingly cold, I felt disconnected. They were almost like ghosts parading through the narrative, the mists of time almost obscuring their flesh and blood personas – I guess they somehow mirrored the nebulous figures of Schiller, Goethe, Liszt and Cranach whose presence from the past held dynamic sway over the 6 students at the Bauhaus School of Art in the Weimar days…..
The era of the Weimar Republic is finding renewed popularity – 2019 marks the 100th birthday of the Bauhaus. An interesting article in The Guardian highlights some of the excellent works available now to mark the anniversary. My own interest was piqued when I went to an exhibition about the Bauhaus at the Willy-Brandt-Haus in Berlin, in early 2019, which brought together images of many of the iconic Bauhaus buildings and projects around the world.
“..red squares, blue circles and yellow triangles, I already knew these as the colours and shapes of the Bauhaus..”
If you like this period in history, then pick up a copy of the novel: In the Full Light of the Sun by Clare Clark which will enable you to continue your journey through the period of the Weimar Republic.
Tina for the TripFiction Team
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