Leipzig (dpa) – Jan Nowak, 30, lives in Kamenz in Saxony. Germany does not extend much further east. He works at the hospital, but it should close soon.

Otherwise, the life of Jan, the title hero of Lukas Rietzschel’s new novel “Raumfahrer”, is characterized by losses. The mother is dead, drowned miserably in alcohol. The building in which the family lived was demolished. “30 years of reunification and none of the old neighbors had returned.” The novel takes its readers with it to such a room.

Growing up in Saxony

Lukas Rietzschel had great success with his first “Hit the world with his fist” (2018). The author, who was born in Upper Lusatia in 1994 and now lives in Görlitz, is considered one of the most important young literary voices in the East. The famous first book dealt with the growth and radicalization in East Saxony after the fall of the Berlin Wall. “Spaceman” is spatially very similar. But Rietzschel bows out of what is arguably the region’s most famous painter: Georg Baselitz. Jan and Baselitz’s families are linked, which results in a piece-by-piece puzzle when reading the novel.

“Raumfahrer” is a book for anyone who wants to deal with East Germany. Rietzschel strikes a touching touch: “In the meantime, even the industrial parks and shopping centers that had been planted on the green meadow as a panacea for the cities were empty. Established extended, it was always good. At one point nail salons, cell phone case stores, Tedi, MäcGeiz, then nothing for a long time and finally an investor who wanted to turn the little mall across town into a paintball hall. “

Tension remains high

The book describes destinies: that of the painter, born in 1938 under the name of Hans-Georg Kern, who settles in West Berlin and becomes famous. That of his younger brother Günter, who wants to follow him but does not succeed. The Nowak family. And as is almost inevitable with GDR-related CVs, betrayal and lies, espionage and the Stasi come into play. The chapters jump in time. It can be tiring, but that is not the case with Rietzschel as he manages to keep the blood pressure high.

With all this, only Jan’s figure remains strangely pale: is he in pain from the fact that his surroundings have collapsed more and more since birth? Remain unclear. If he is moved by the knowledge he is gradually acquiring about his family? Cannot be said. It’s strange because much of the novel is about the here and now, the emptiness in Kamenz and in the society that Jan should actually be dealing with.

Lukas Rietzschel: Raumfahrer, dtv, 288 pages, ISBN 978-3-423-28295-6 hardcover 22.00 euros