At first glance, Deniz Utlu’s novel Gegen Morgen (Against Tomorrow) could be read as the story of a man in his mid-thirties going through a midlife crisis. Only at second glance does it become clear that it is about the fundamental questioning of value systems.
Kara, the protagonist, experiences severe turbulence and an emergency landing on a flight from Berlin to Frankfurt am Main. He begins to question his previous life. His doubts are fuelled by his profession. As a trained economist, he is asked to calculate the “cost of life” for an insurance company. Over the course of his calculations, Kara and his long-term girlfriend Nadia break up, as he questions profoundly his choice of career and his friendships with Vince and Ramón.
During his transformation, Kara begins to suffer from sleeplessness and the story becomes increasingly ambiguous. It’s unclear what is reality, fantasy, waking or dream, as memories blur with the present. Kara, actually an unambitious type who rarely makes active decisions, tries to take stock, and wavers between complacency and the feeling of not having taken on enough responsibility for others. Complacency is personified by Vince, his former roommate. Vince’s only priority is himself: all that matter are his pleasure and his successes. He advises Kara to take the same approach – but Kara has doubts. Ramón represents those doubts. Like all the characters in the novel, Ramón remains strange, mysterious and intangible. However, one thing is clear: he comes from a difficult family background and is repeatedly rejected by society. He does not fit into the system. He is different. He takes beatings from Nazis.
In its representation of these three characters, the novel shows that not all people have the same access to opportunities. Some experience barriers that others don’t even notice. Kara, who stands between the extremes, suddenly realizes this and begins to feel responsible as a result. Because the characters remain symbolic devices, they didn’t really touch me as a reader. This takes the weight from the novel’s major themes and runs the risk of reducing it to the story of a midlife crisis after all. But Deniz Utlu’s novel is finally laudable for its call for critical examination, the admission of vulnerability, and ultimately expresses a desire for more solidarity.
(There is no English translation of the book yet)
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