The novel Im Menschen muss alles herrlich sein by Sasha Marianna Salzmann speaks of the collapse of a political system, of times of societal upheaval and their effects on the lives of two friends, Lena and Tatjana, who left Ukraine in the 1990s to strand in Jena, and their daughters Edita and Nina – who each try to come to terms with the almost unknown legacy of their mothers, with the collapse of the colossus that was Soviet Union and its aftermath. Through various detours, through conversations with relatives, books, work, Internetresearch, the daughters only gradually realize what made their mothers (and grandmothers) the women they are today – and in the process – come across numerous unknown spots, some beautiful some terrible, some forgotten or repressed, some fallen silent. »The land they were born into has already been amputated, but it still hurts. Little else can be said with certainty.« Is it still possible, Nina wonders, to speak to one's mother not in the past, nor the future? To look her in the eye only in the present? To stop reproaching herself for what was, or lamenting what never will be? But the closer they get, the blurrier the picture seems to become, the more questions arise.
In the NZZ's series Was mich bewegt (What Moves Me), which highlights important voices of the international literary scene, Salzmann writes: »›Secrets‹ is the name of a Ukrainian game in which children dig a hole in the ground, throw in everything colorful they can find – blooming flowers, shiny stones, gaudy scrunchies, shimmering doll clothes – then they put a glass pane over the pit, cover it with earth and run away. Only when they feel unobserved they return, uncover the spot again, and view their secret treasures through the glass.« It is after this game that one of the most distinctive voices of contemporary Ukraine, Oksana Sabushko, named her 2009 novel: Museum of Forgotten Secrets. Zabushko traces this game back to the time when the Bolsheviks took power in Ukraine and people felt compelled to bury their icons or jewelry, in fact, anything that was dear to them. When Zabushko was asked a few years later whether it made any sense at all to dig up the long-hidden Ukrainian secrets, she replied that this was the central question in Ukrainian society since the country's independence. After all, at least two generations lived with silence. The essence of a secret is that one remains clueless as to who else knows and about what exactly. Even whether one knows the whole story and whether it corresponds to the truth, remains hidden. If, as in the case of Ukraine, it is a historical event, a genocide, then the mystery is part of a collective experience that flows like lava under a crust of silence. The novel Im Menschen muss alles herrlich sein leaves room for these mysteries – and finds a language, for the questions that should be asked.
Director Sebastian Nübling and author Sasha Marianna Salzmann have been working together for a very long time; he has already adapted and premiered Salzmann's first novel Ausser sich at the Maxim Gorki Theater.
Premiere 27/October 2023
Photo: Esra Rotthoff
Stage photos: Ute Langkafel MAIFOTO
Part of 6. Berliner Herbstsalon 2023 LOST – YOU GO SLAVIA