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Tanz Am Kanal

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  54 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Kerstin Hensel läßt die Lebensgeschichte der Gabriela von Haßlau in Leibniz erzählen, als Kind, als Schülerin, als Lehrling, als Obdachlose, die sich Papier zusammensucht (Plakatfetzen, Tüten), um ihr Leben aufzuschreiben, das Wahrhaft verdient, aufgeschrieben zu werden.
Paperback, 118 pages
Published February 1st 1997 by Suhrkamp Verlag (first published 1994)
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I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel narrated by a homeless person before. Gabriela von Haßlau has a noble name and a solid upper-middle-class background – her father was a surgeon and chief medical officer specializing in varicose veins; her mother was trained as a radiographer before becoming a housewife and society hostess – but her life took a turn for the worse at some point and she now lives in an encampment under a canal bridge in the town of Leibnitz (a fictional stand-in for Leipzig).

Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Novella set in GERMANY (East and West, looking both ways)


“When I pass homeless women, I look into their faces and wonder: why her and not me? I sense that maybe our differences are not as great as I would like to believe. Dance by the Canal tells the story of a woman who fails to find her place in society – neither in the communist GDR nor in the capitalist West. Her refusal to conform to the patriarchal structures of both societies forces her into ever increasing isolation. This book will m
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: german, fiction
Elegantly written in a style of "show, don't tell".

I read it in the original German with the Peirene Press translation alongside. Very well translated, it follows the original text very closely.

Some notes that I took at a meeting with the author organised by Peirene Press in London: -

The author says that life is her inspiration. She writes to ask questions, not to provide answers. The dance in the title refers to desire for movement, freedom, rhythm of life. The end was not a resolution, it lef
Jackie Law
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dance by the Canal, by Kerstin Hensel (translated by Jen Calleja), tells the story of Gabriela von Haßlau, the only child of the Chief Medical Officer at the surgical clinic in Leibnitz, and his wife, Christiane. Gabriela’s father, Ernst, is proud to descend from noble Anhaltinian stock. Christiane’s family he prefers to forget. In communist East Germany drawing attention to bourgeois standing could be regarded as dangerous.

When the tale opens Gabriela is living under a bridge by the canal, writ
Kerstin Hensel’s Dance by the Canal gives voice to the voiceless: a homeless woman living under a canal bridge in East Germany.

It paints a convincing (and disturbing) portrait of how an oppressive political system can have long-lasting repercussions on individuals, damaging their psyches and leaving them at the mercy of a rigid, often uncaring society.

To read my review in full, please visit my blog.
Oct 16, 2010 rated it liked it
A friend gave me this ages ago - part of the body of German fiction providing different perspectives of life in East Germany before, during and after the "Wende", reunification. This is interesting because it's from a women's perspective, an inside look at the particular degradations women could be subjected to, and at landing on the lowest rung of the social ladder. Interesting, not great, but added a few impressions and bits of knowledge to my sense of that period.
Review of Dance By The Canal by Kerstin Hensel, translated by Jen Calleja

The main character is Gabriela, a homeless woman living under the bridge beside the canal (hence the title) in the early 1990s after the reunification of Germany, as she is occupying herself by writing her memoir while doing so.

The novel starts in early with her life, Gabriela is the daughter of a highly esteemed surgeon. For an early birthday, she receives the present of a violin which she thinks was a dachshund. Her schoo
Oct 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gabriela is an interesting character but I didn't really feel that I completely understood her. The book is told in a series of anecdotes from the past and present but I would have liked to have delved further into her psyche, examining her feelings and sense of who she was, is and wants to be. As always with Pereine, it's a book to make you think : it's an interesting idea that all those nameless, almost faceless, homeless people that you walk past in the street could have such a fascinating an ...more
Roger Boyle
This was my 3rd Peirene book.

I didn't like it anything like as much as the first 2. maybe it got lost in translation but I found the story unconvincing and I didn't really buy any of the characters. Perhaps if I had lived in the DDR it would chime much more, and maybe that's it - fiction to emerge from the German reunification is important to exist, but perhaps tough for British readers properly to get.

I liked the way she dismisses the Big Night in a couple of pages, and she is certainly an acco
Anne Goodwin
Under a bridge in Leibniz, East Germany, alongside the canal that has been part of her life since childhood, Gabriela scribbles away on stolen scraps of paper. She identifies as a writer and poet; others see her as homeless, a challenge to the Communist ideal. As she transcribes her autobiography, punctuated by reports of her daily struggle to find food and, as winter approaches, warmth and shelter, we get a glimpse of the inner homelessness that has brought her to this place.
Full review coming
Sam Campbell
Feb 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short and engaging novella that I (mostly) read while my family were watching a film at the cinema. Dramatic start. Powerful characterisation of the first person homeless woman from a house where she had poor attachment. Some East-West Germany references perhaps lost on me but didn’t spoil the enjoyment. Some aspects of the main character Gabriela slightly tenuous later in the book but didn’t spoil it for me. Common to my friends who have read this and other reviewers, the ending gets muddling b ...more
Maybe I’m not cut out for literary fiction. I found this entire book confusing and hard to follow, and even now I’ve finished it I still don’t know what was going on, or understand any of the plot.
Probably doesn’t help that I read the first half of the book four months ago, but I guess it speaks volumes that the only thing that made me pick it back up to finish it was the fact it’s still on my goodreads ‘currently reading’ list, and I wanted to get shot of it. Not one for me I’m afraid.
Mar 29, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Despite being a novella, Dance by the Canal feels much longer. The storyline is deliberately disjointed and dark, stretching between Gabrielle’s childhood in 1960’s Germany and her adult life as a homeless woman. It feels like it is difficult to separate what she consider to be true events from potential delusions and confusion.
I was pretty tired when I read this book, so maybe that was the problem, but I sincerely have no idea what it was about. I couldn't tell what was real and what was imagined, I completely lost sight of the plot and ended up with no idea at all as to who the narrator really was. I would have stopped reading it had it not been so short.
Shelly Dennison
Three stars because I can't quite decide about this one. There's some brilliantly descriptive passages and the character of the unreliable narrator is interesting but I'm not sure I was as moved by it as I felt I should have been...
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