“Aunt Erna’s Last Dance”: Markus Orths’ heartwarming novel | NDR.de – culture – book

Status: 01.07.2022 06:00 a.m

Markus Orths has the talent to make difficult topics easy to understand. And he tells the whole thing so heartwarmingly and so funny that the 150 pages are read in one go.

by Maren Ahring

A rural village, quirky characters and a fake death. What at first glance looks like the plot of an early evening series turns out to be a real discovery on closer inspection.

“Forever is the best policy – Aunt Erna’s last dance”

Home is not a place, but a feeling – Herbert Grönemeyer already knew that. And so Benno, in his mid-thirties, feels a “strange homeland” when he gets off the bus in a town on the Lower Rhine to visit his parents. He’s right back in the thick of it – in the eternally same dialogues with his mother:

“And? How is it?” she asks. “Mmm,” I say. “And with you?” “Mmm.” “Everything the same?” “Mmm.” “How nice.”
reading sample

And in his parents’ house, where time seems to stand still:

Nothing changes here. The rust-red fringe runner in the hallway. The badly anchored wardrobe I hang my jacket on. (…) We go straight into the living room. The squeaky green couch. The tube TV. (“He’s still doing it!”). The little dining area. The buffet.
reading sample

The village snacks are only moderately interesting once you have moved away:

“Oh, do you know who died?” “No.” “The Danners, Karl.” (…) “I do not know.” “Yes, yes, the Danners. The Danners, Josef! That’s the son’s father. He gave you 20 marks every year for carol singing. And now he fell out of the window. While cleaning the windows. It was written yesterday in the Newspaper. He was suddenly and unexpectedly torn from our midst. That’s bad. At the moment you still think: man, the windows haven’t been this clean for a long time. And the next moment you fall out and can’t get up anymore.”
reading sample

The funeral of the perfectly healthy Aunt Erna

Benno endures it all patiently and smiles at his parents’ whims. Then there’s Klarchen, her mother’s best friend, who lives next door and is almost part of the family.

Then Klarchen looks at me for a long time and whispers: “Man, I think that’s wonderful!” “What is it?” I ask. “That you visit your parents so often. Three times a year.”
reading sample

Her own daughter, Sibille, Benno’s childhood love, doesn’t even come home for Klarchen’s birthday. Actually! Because suddenly Sibille is on her way. Because Klarchen told her that Aunt Erna, who was almost a hundred years old, had died. Erna is in the best of health:

“She’s ninety-nine. She can die at any time,” says Klarchen. “The older you get, the closer you get to the cold hand of death.” “Who says that?” asks my father. “Rosamunde Pilcher.”
reading sample

So Klarchen invents the aunt’s funeral in order to spend a little time with her daughter. It is also clear that this cannot go well.

Further information

Many exciting books are coming out this year. For example by Heinz Strunk, Yasmina Reza, Joël Dickers and Sybille Berg. more

Recommended audio book with Bjarne Mädel

How this story ends cannot be revealed here. Just this much: Even if there is an undertaker with a fondness for vampire films and a green hearse, no one dies.

Markus Orths has the talent to make difficult topics easy to understand. And he tells the whole thing so heartwarmingly and so funny that the 150 pages are read in one go. The “Epilogue” with “Mother Irma’s last sentences” – so to speak as the “Best of” – was no longer needed.

On the other hand, I highly recommend the audio book. Because with Bjarne Mädel exactly the right actor reads this text. An absolute stroke of luck!

Eternity is the best policy – Aunt Erna’s last dance

by Markus Orths

Page number:
160 pages
Additional info:
The audio book, read by Bjarne Mädel, was published by DAV and costs 15 euros.
Order number:

This topic in the program:

NDR Culture | New Books | 07/01/2022 | 12:40 p.m

Keywords for this article


NDR logo