“Der Nirgendsmann” by Markus Szaszka
Enter the roller coaster – Der Nirgendsmann will make you feel it all, euphoria, enlightenment, resignation and sadness. Follow Jens Nirgendsmann through a Berlin at its peak and dive into this modern coming-of-age story for 20-somethings.
So, let’s start with Nirgendsmann, the protagonist. He’s a village kid who moves to Berlin, looking for excitement, parties
The clandestine nature of his job is what turns Nirgendsmann from merely a ghostwriter into what he calls a “city ghost”. Someone who observes the people around but who isn’t seen himself. He is somewhere between a flaneur and a voyeur. Always hesitant to become an active participant in the city life, he prefers to stay at the sideline and watch everyday’s drama unfold in the streets and bars of Berlin.
He’s a real nowhere man, making all his nowhere plans for nobody.The Beetles – Nowhere Man
(I have been wondering throughout the whole novel if the author was inspired by the song “Nowhere Man” by the Beetles.)
The millennial’s search for meaning
Are you feeling guilty? If you are a millennial, chances are that your answer is yes. You know who sews your cheap clothes, you know the impact of your food choices and of your consumerism. People pay with their lives for something that’s just a small pleasure to you.
You know it and you don’t change anyway – that’s how Jens Nirgendsmann feels. He is suffering from knowing too much and not acting upon his knowledge.
He understands that the way we live as a society is unhealthy and selfish. Just as much as he sees that the kind of work he does as a ghostwriter isn’t exactly ethical.
Markus Szaszka spends many pages describing the sorrows of a typical millennial. Nirgendsmann is caught up in his thoughts and worries but utterly passive. In fact, he is paralyzed by worrying and thinking, numbing himself with drugs and the kind of cheap pleasures a city like Berlin offers.
Eventually, he is confronted with a choice. He either needs to choose a new direction for himself or get stuck in a life that doesn’t feel right.
The sadness of a generation
I felt sad throughout the last third of the novel. Nirgendsmann’s story is one that I can relate to very well. It’s the lack of orientation of an entire generation, the questions nobody can answer easily and the overwhelming flood of information that make it hard for him to turn thoughts into actions.
The struggle for meaning is a challenge for most of us. At least, if we are willing to confront the questions Nirgendsmann asks himself.
Thematically, Der Nirgendsmann reminds me of The Catcher in the Rye, one of my all-time favorite books. Actually, it’s like a modern version of it. A coming off-age-story for 20-somethings.
Knows not where he’s going to. Isn’t he a bit like you and me?The Beetles – Nowhere Man