Andreas Steinhofel is a German writer and translator. His novel ‘The Centre of the World’ is a favourite of mine. I read it over several days but found myself nearing the end when reading it on a train. I was on my way to a conference in Cardiff. As I had only a few pages to go, I went and sat in the café at the station and finished it before heading off into the city. This book is THAT good.
Here is a story of a seventeen year old boy, called Phil, who negotiates life with a twin sister and his mother who has an individual approach to life. Part of this approach is to refuse to tell her son about the one of the many men in her past who is his father. He knows hid father is ‘number three’ but nothing else. Without this key piece of information, he feels that an important part of his identity is lost. Phil is also gay and the novel explores the heartache of his first true love. Yet this is not the story of coming out. Phil has grown up knowing he is gay. His mother and sister know this too. There has been no big ‘coming out’ declaration and Phil spends no time worrying about what other people might think about his sexuality.
The family lives in a huge mansion called ‘Visible’, set apart from the city. From here they remain slightly detached from other people, partly because of the mother’s unconventional approach to life. The seventeen year old Phil is in love but he agonises over a relationship that might mean more to him than to the object of his affections. The story of Phil trying to work out how he fits in the world is intercut with stories of his younger self.
I liked Phil. At the end, I desperately wanted him to be happy. Whether or not he will be is unclear but, like many before him, he needs to leave to find himself.
This book was written in German with the title, ‘Die Mitte der Welt’. I have seen it translated as ‘Center of THE World’ with the American spelling of centre and ‘Centre of MY world’ which is the title I have on my copy. Whatever it is called, it is worth reading.
‘Centre of My World’ is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?