The Life of a Black Forest Andalusian

Author:  | Saturday, November 07th, 2015 | 

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Alumnus José F. A. Oliver provides insight into his life as the child of Andalusian immigrants in the Black Forest in his essay collection Fremdenzimmer. The book conjures up before the reader’s eyes a fascinating world full of regional curiosities.

Josè F. A. Oliver was born in 1961 in the small town of Hausach in the Black Forest as the son of Andalusian immigrants. In his latest work Fremdenzimmer (“Guest Room”), he weaves this Andalusian-Allemanic background into an astoundingly harmonious tapestry of two different cultures. Oliver uses his sharp senses to recollect that which seemed perfectly natural to him as a child, describing a unique and unexpected world that existed for him in his youth in the middle of the Black Forest.

„Fremdenzimmer" von José F. A. Oliver, 119 Seiten, weissbooks.w, 16,90€.

José F. A. Oliver’s “Fremdenzimmer”, 119 pages, weissbooks.w, 16,90€.

Fremdenzimmer is satisfying above all on the level of language. The author’s special relationship with his roots comes to life, and the book also provides the perfect space for him to showcase his great talent for lyricism. Oliver integrates dialect words and regional proverbs authentically into the text and glosses them in footnotes. He encourages his readers to read out loud so that they can experience the soundscapes he reproduces. Complementing this deft use of the vernacular, Oliver also integrates further fascinating peculiarities of the two cultures into his stories, such as regional customs and the mystical nature of the Black Forest.

The small things in life are imbued with special significance in this Black Forest with an Andalusian flavor, like the technological advancement of the refrigerator or Serrano ham that one can consume by smelling it alone. With its atmospheric language, its use of images that are at the same time surprising and easy to grasp, and its portrayal of the author’s personal experiences, Fremdenzimmer provides excellent pleasure reading for quiet moments.

José F. A. Oliver studied Romance studies, German studies, and philosophy at the University of Freiburg. He is the founder and curator of the literature festival LeseLenz in Hausach, which has made his hometown known beyond the borders of the Black Forest. Oliver has already published many poetical works and has won numerous literature scholarships and prizes, including this year’s Basel Poetry Prize.

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