Buy This Book: STELLA by Siegfried Lenz

Sometimes a narrative is more compelling by what is not said. In his novella, STELLA, Siegfried Lenz, elevates this silence into an art form. The story is simple, a young man, Christian, falls in love with his teacher, Stella. He’s eighteen; Stella is older although the exact age difference is undetermined as is the exact time this very literary gem unfolds . . . at some point in the 1960’s. The setting is more well-defined and important, a small, isolated fishing community on the Baltic coast. Lenz puts the reader there using words like water colors brushed on with the lightest touch. You can smell the water, the sunlight on the waves, taste the salt in the breeze. Christian’s family are rock fishers. They troll for large boulders to use as bulwarks against the incessant washing effect of the ocean on the shore. When the story opens, what seems almost a dream of love has collided with the harsh reality of death. It’s Stella who has died as the result of a tragic accident. Christian is present at her memorial. The school where Stella taught has arranged it, an hour of remembrance. The principal asked Christian to give the eulogy, but he refused. To speak of her as her student, or perhaps in any way, would seem almost a betrayal of what he and Stella shared.

But this is the mystery. Exactly what did they share? Was there an actual relationship other than in Christian’s mind? He has her note, the last she wrote to him. He has the remembrance of their two heads on one pillow. He believes he knew her better than many others who had claims on her time and attention, but sometimes we’re beguiled and lured more by what we don’t know about those whom we love. We’re beguiled by the silence, by what we are left to imagine is the truth. The German title for this book is Minute of Silence and that suits it, perhaps more than her name, Stella, as a title.

Comments

Joni Rodgers said…
Wow, this sounds intriguing. Thanks for another great review, Bobbi. You keep running up my book budget!

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