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05/31/2024 | Literary criticism

"Our German fairy tale" by Dinçer Güçyeter - A story between fairy tale and reality

by Lidia Medanik

"So you understand that you were born alone, you will die alone. That's why you keep searching for your own language, because only with the help of language will you be able to save yourself."


Dinçer Güçyeter writes these lines in his debut novel Our German Fairy Tale, published in 2022. The search for one's own language, one's own identity in the context of migration and marginalization is at the heart of Unser Deutschlandmärchen, as is the attempt to create interpersonal connections that transcend cultural boundaries and cross generations. An ambitious goal, and yet Güçyeter succeeds in doing just that with his novel.


Our German fairy tale tells many stories, but they all have one thing in common: They tell of a life on the margins of society. We learn about Ayşe, a Greek woman who has to eke out an existence as an eternal stranger in an Anatolian village, and her daughter Hanife, a widow who sets off for the city to escape the violence of her father-in-law. Finally, the novel tells the story of her daughter Fatma, who has to follow a foreign man to Germany to escape poverty in her home country as a guest worker. Her son Dinçer, the narrator of the novel, who shares his name with the author, wants to understand all her stories, including his own. Torn between two worlds, his family's demands and his own dreams, Dinçer grows up and tries to build a bridge to unite his worlds in Our German Fairy Tale.


At the center of this story is the mother-son relationship between Dinçer and Fatma. It is not an easy one. Fatma shares the fate of many women whose work remains invisible both inside and outside the home, who are not appreciated, yet always have to function. Dinçer seems to want to give these women in particular a voice. Yet Fatma does not correspond to any sentimentalized ideal image of a self-sacrificing mother. Between work and housework, she barely has time to respond to her son's needs. A life characterized by hardship has hardened her. Dinçer's sensitive character clashes with Fatma's lack of understanding, he mourns his mother's broken dreams and at the same time is crushed by the burden of her expectations of him. An experience that most children of migrant workers can probably relate to.


At times, the novel feels like an indictment of Fatma, but she is neither convicted nor acquitted. It is clear that many wounds are still open for Dinçer and some will never heal. And yet neither Dinçer nor the reader can help but admire Fatma's seemingly endless inner strength, her generosity and willingness to help. Our German fairy tale is therefore also a love letter to our own mother and an attempt to get closer to her.


"How often have I hallucinated your death..." says Dinçer to Fatma, a statement that is both shocking and liberating in its honesty. This is characteristic of Unser Deutschlandmärchen : The novel speaks the unspeakable, attempts to break the silence. It is unsparing and at the same time empathetic. Dinçer's language is poetic and powerful, the images he draws are unusual and extremely memorable. This takes place in different text forms, sober prose and extravagant poetry in the form of songs and poems come together to form a complete work which, like Dinçer himself, cannot be pigeonholed and is full of contrasts and contradictions. These contradictions do not harm the story, but rather make it what it is: In Our German Fairy Tale, the fairy tale meets reality and the two merge seamlessly. In the end, the question remains: How do we deal with our past, how do we look to our future? Fatma finds the following words: "Every burden, every pain is fleeting, take heart, don't be afraid of life."