Kai Wieland: Zeit der Wildschweine
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Among the dominant themes in the works of Hermann Hesse is that of self-discovery, or self-realization. Hermann Hesse’s life was partially characterized by competing forces that included on one hand the pious lifestyle and influences of his parents, the responsibilities that accompanied his marriages and children, and the demands of an often-hostile outside world, and, on the other hand, his individualism, his development as a writer, and his sometimes peripatetic longings.
These themes can also be found in a novel published earlier this year by the young German writer Kai Wieland. The novel, Zeit der Wildschweine, is the second novel from Wieland, who grew up not far from Hesse’s own hometown of Calw in southwestern Germany. The protagonist in Wieland’s novel, Leon, is offered the opportunity to trade homes with his father, and is thus presented with the same secure, yet confining, bourgeois lifestyle against which Hesse struggled throughout his lifetime. At the same time, Leon undertakes a trip with a friend and photographer, Janko, to explore forgotten places on the French coast, a trip which offers Leon an escape from a bourgeois lifestyle and an opportunity to create his own reality.
Wieland includes in his novel a variety of persons and places which function as characters who compete for Leon’s favor, including an unsympathetic sister who already has a family of her own, a neighbor at home who seems at times a surrogate conscience, and a potential romantic interest who seems perpetually just out of reach. More subtle references in the novel include even Ernest Hemingway, who enters the novel early on via Leon’s interest in boxing.
Anyone who has read Hesse’s Steppenwolf, for example, will feel at home in Wieland’s novel. Although the two works are separated by nearly a century, they share many of the same themes, including a protagonist who is in search of himself.
Kai Wieland was born in 1989. His novel “Zeit der Wildschweine” was published by Klett-Cotta Verlag.