Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Center of the World by Andreas Steinhöfel (Book Review)

No. of pages: 466
First published: 1998 (in German under the title ‘Die Mitte der Welt’)
Phil, seventeen, lives in a crumbling Gothic-style mansion called Visible in a small town somewhere in Germany, with his twin sister and their mother, Glass. For Phil, the name of his father has only been a “Number Three” on his mother’s ever growing list of lovers. Glass lives her life with rules of her own making, and has always advised Phil and Dianne to be wary of the townspeople who live across the river. The townspeople don’t want to have to do anything with them either, branding them as the witch whore and her children. Except for Phil’s possessive best friend, Kat. As time passes, Dianne grows distant from both Phil and Glass, and Phil falls in love with the newcomer guy, Nicholas. What had possibly happened between Glass and Dianne that summer when Phil was away on a voyage with his uncle, Gable?
Will all of them ever be the same?   
While books like ‘Will Grayson, Will Grayson’ are loud and straightforward books about homosexuality, ‘The Center of the World’ is a quiet, subtle and beautiful book that doesn’t treat homosexuality as ‘the’ biggest identity of the character, rather it is an important truth that underlies all other obstacles Phil faces. Phil’s sexuality is mentioned in the manner of passing, and if I hadn’t already known that this was an LGBT book, I would not have seen it coming. There was no drum-roll moment that was the result of a built-up tension of deciding to come out and all that high drama that usually surrounds novels of this genre. (not blown out of proportion all the time, of course) It was silent, venturing, melancholic, and artistic in a way that a boy having interior dialogue with a black porcelain doll called Paleiko is equally disturbing and beautiful.
It is a daring book, the kind that prompts us to rearrange the prejudices and opinions borrowed from others; friends, neighbors, teachers, parents, the well-meaning elders.

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From "Die Mitte der Welt"

It's one of those hot, sky-blue days that taste of vanilla ice cream and summer and future, when your heart beats faster for no apparent reason, and when you're prepared to swear any oath that friendships never end.

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