Just before stepping into 2019, two copies of Nora Krug’s memoir made their way into the little bookshop and took my breath away. An illustrated female character embracing the world with her eyes was posing as Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer above the Sea of Fog on the cover of what was to become one of my all-time favorite discoveries.
“Seventeen years after leaving Germany for the US, Nora Krug decided she couldn’t know who she was without confronting where she’d come from. In Heimat, she documents her journey investigating the lives of her family members under the Nazi regime, visually charting her way back to a country still tainted by war.” (Particular Books / Penguin Random House)
I did not take it home with me right away. “Please, leave others stumble upon it too, I promise I’ll order more copies after the holidays,” Vlad told me. I only took some pictures of the interior illustrations before both copies vanished (as Christmas presents) and decided to wait until my turn would come.
At last, a few days ago I gifted myself a few hours for reading it and I’m still rumbling around under its spell.
Nora’s intimate wanderings grow into noble gatherings of forgotten histories, building an extensive journey that is quite hard to label.
In this laboratory of self, she takes notes by hand, she inspects and glues together tiny pieces of materialized absence, she exchanges long worn binoculars for a microscope through which she tirelessly digs into the anatomy of memories: “I have to wait to find out if it’s malignant or not,” she marks while looking for US military files on her grandfather.
She’s patient, meticulous, brave, poetic.
“Heimat can only be found again in memory, it is something that only begins to exist once you’ve lost it.”
Physically, Heimat is a Cabinet of Wonder. A Wunderkammer. A collection of wonderful drawings, handwritten diary-like entries, old photos, postcards, official documents – all interlaced to give birth to a flawless visual performance. When you open the book, you enter an exhibition designed to keep you hostage (that’s the best kind of exhibition there is, if you ask me): its pages are not numbered. You constantly have to remember. We constantly have to remember where we were, where we are.
It’s an impressive proof of humanity that can find its place on many shelves: memoirs/autobiographies, graphic novels, artist books, history files, investigative journalism. Go read it asap.