Harsimran Kaur On  Jun 07, 2024, In Book Review, Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck – Fiction

Rating: 5/5

Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck Book Review

Is familiarity illusionary? Is what I observe delusionary? Is what I don’t observe consequential?

Can past reveal in familiar ways, and present die in interminable fallacy?

What if the past decrees to make the present intolerable; why then judge the human characteristic that lives in denial of both; when did it first accept it? Or its acceptance is in processing the denial. When did it all begin and end; the denial and the acceptance? Let’s look back at the insightful moment, ‘the kairos’ where human perpetuity breeds the solipsistic-self.

Jenny Erpenbeck plays an arpeggio of an inviolable love that traverses through past rondo, celebrates the ‘lost & found’ in reticulated retrospect. What will you call this love? A love between a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’; or a love that is neglectful of chastened mediocrities or a love that carries a chimera often a cessation to a perfectly guided torment, giving rise to another perfect analogy. Will a man offer this kind of love to a woman?

Hans and Katherine meet at an opportune moment when time does not stop but moves ahead whistling in the cacophony of aberrations, and then ‘love’ has no choice but to fall in the precincts of corrigendum, self-created and self-perceived. Is this what destiny holds for Hans and Katherine?

Their love story is contemporaneous, their perceptions unlimited and asynchronous. He is a writer & a broadcaster, and she fits as the obsessed charm for his self-exculpating ad nauseam. Why an anomaly beckons if a man is older to a woman, far too older for both of them to fall in love. Hans is 34 years her senior. So, how do we perfectly perceive love? Are we just looking at collision of heart-filled atoms that rupture in the weariness of departure?

Isn’t love capable of disinterring hidden mysteries; ‘his’ & ‘hers’? Isn’t love obliged to unparalleled promiscuity If dark horrors of the past stick as an angst in the present melee? Why absolution is regarded as the lover’s sanctuary in betrayal? It has never been an emotion but a reflective mind being an impressionistic bully.   

Hans is not able to take in Katherine’s perfidy! Why did she betray him, he often envisages? Well, that’s the irony of betrayal; it has no cause. It’s an ordinary pursuit to reclaim the ‘lost’ inside. Hans writes letters to Katherine, and so does send cassettes where he sings an arpeggio of insults and contempt to make her soul feel in impropriety. He reminisces ‘Stalin’s death’ so deeply and remembers how the ‘truth’ of it moved him incessantly.

Can he forget Katharine’s treachery?

Thus, the ‘past’ irrevocably touches the ‘present’.  

‘Kairos’ by Jenny Erpenbeck is a sanctimonious love-story in the forefront; at the back of the curtain lays the conflict of a country repressed by political misadventure.

East Berlin; a young Katherine and an old Hans meet for the first time, web in a timeline of ‘love’ and ‘political conspiracies’ that lead to the fall of the Berlin wall. Their aspirations differ; freedom too holds a different pursuit. But, love keeps them binded till the sanctity is crushed in the hope to be free. ‘Freedom comes at a price’; for ‘love’ and for the ‘country’.

Hans has a past; the vulnerable eye has seen it all—the massacred Jews, the fascist regime and the soviet communism. What has lived with him is not sympathy but an awkward attendance to the ineluctable memory. Katherine has no past of all the same mold & matter, but her ‘present’ is a new-found freedom of youth and an empowered future where the indispensible need to question is a palpable de rigueur.

What gets them together is memories; Hans reading a chapter to her from his novel or playing the Beethoven’s. Was all this enough to get over the deception and create a new memory? Is it easy to lay dormant and watch the sky, the stars, entrapped by it with darkness around. What do you call this love; In lour and in vanity?  

The fundamentals no longer suit the ordinary living. The Berlin Wall falls; the ‘west’ and the ‘east’ find oneness—only in their ‘past’. A future now needs to be created for the progeny to breathe the righteous counts of self-sustainability.

Is this a prelude to the fall between Hans and Katherine?

Winner of the Booker Prize 2024, Jenny Erpenbeck has brought the nativity of the human mind to be inclusive, yet guarded. We bear the traumas of the past, and soon they become revelations of an unknown origin. Our observance is not a charade; it reorganizes and dislikes emotions to suit our preoccupations in future. Hans and Katharine! The former lives in the memory of mass murders & cruelty, the impulse of the Nazi’s & Soviet to destroy humanity, and the latter in love with the future in Choate.

As the Sun awakens to a new period of hegemony, there is a leadership in us that also changes. We realize ‘acceptability’ is an understatement. We look forward to ‘change’ because of an intrusive need to inspire and aspire. We thus become leaders of our own vision.


The Story of Hans and Katherine is about change and accepting that nothing is permanent.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments