Anna Katharina Hahn
My Mother’s Dress


Anita always rolled her eyes at her parents’ constant talk of books and writers and literature. So it’s all the more infuriating when, after their death, she gets caught up in the tangle of their lives’ loose ends and finds herself trapped in a story with twists and turns worthy of a 19th century Gothic novel. In the sweltering August heat of a Madrid still reeling from the Euro crisis, Anita follows the clues. They lead her to a sad, lascivious newspaperman, her father’s old boss; a foul-mouthed, moody German publisher who runs his press from an old freighter-turned-houseboat docked in a polluted harbor; and a melancholy Spanish translator living in east Germany, avoiding the news from back home. Behind all of these figures looms the mysterious Gert De Ruit, a renowned yet reclusive author whom no one has ever seen in person—except, maybe, Anita’s mother.

With a slow descent into the unreal reminiscent of Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment and a fun, fractured narrative worthy of Bolaño, My Mother’s Dress, like much of Anna Katharina Hahn’s work, wrestles with the question of what use there is for literature in everyday life. For Anita’s father, the chance to reveal a juicy bit of literary gossip means a potential payday and a solution to his family’s money troubles. For Anita herself, literature is a nightmare from which she is trying to awake. For the rest of the characters, the answer falls somewhere in between. Rarely, however, does one find, as one does with Hahn, such evidence of literature as something undeniably, insistently present.


Anna Katharina Hahn was born in 1970. Her bestselling first novel, Shorter Days (2009), was published in English in 2014 by Frisch & Co. Her second novel, Am Schwarzen Berg, was shortlisted for the Preis der Leipziger Buchmesse in 2012. She lives in Stuttgart.


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March 31, 2017