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since June 19, 2001


A father doesn't give up : The story of a used man

Review and excerpts

The real-life story of a used man, used by his ex-wife and mother of his daughter, used by the legal and social-service system and exploited, fighting against all odds to be in the life of his daughter.

A father doesn't give up : The story of a used man

by Karin Jäckel
(German, 2001, Rowohlt, 318 pp., pb., ISBN 3 499 60692 5; DM 19.90; German title: Ein Vater gibt nicht auf : Die Geschichte eines gebrauchten Mannes)

Although the book reads as if it were fiction, it is the biography of a real man, George, a Greek artist and internationally renowned painter, born in Czechoslovakia, having been raised in Greece, living mainly in Germany - which he now considers his home. Nothing is stranger than the truth.

The book tells the story of how George fell in love with a young German woman, one who had lost her father when she was six, who had a weak mother whose life she brought under control — a woman who had become a stone mason and sculptor but who now had a managerial job with a cemetery supply company — although she was artistically quite good, one who now invaded George's life and proceeds to bring his life "under control."

Having made it to page 70, I came to a point that just had to come, just as a bench would appear that one expects to find somewhere along a European hiking trail at a logical location for a point of view.

We all reach some view points like that in our lives, view points that are quite profound and, even though expected, sometimes surprise us even though we knew about the specific locations of those points as we "hiked" through life but never could properly comprehend them. One of those was for me when I became the father of my first child and oldest son, when I discovered father love as a father and became overwhelmed by it.

Another one that profound came when I was out cross-country skiing once, shortly after my divorce. I had lost my ability then to get a good night's worth of sleep. The experience of not being able to sleep for more than four hours a night was quite new to me yet. Given that there was no Internet then, I had to find something better than just reading to pass the time until I had to drive the long trip to work in the city in the morning, the sentence imposed on me to ensure that my children could experience away from their home the comforts they had become accustomed to at home. I got my skis ready before I went to bed and lost no time to put them on when I woke up around one in the morning.

The night sky always fascinated me, and the night of the view point discovered in relation to that was quite cold but clear and calm, silent.

Having a bit of an interest in astronomy, I knew where the planets were, and that night two or three of them were visible, along with a very faint sickle of the moon. Suddenly something literally jumped into perspective for me, and it seemed that with incredible clarity I could see Earth's position in relation to the Sun, the Moon and the other planets I could see. It was truly, literally and just for a few minutes, in perspective. It was somewhat like some of those stereoscopic puzzles that can be observed in three dimensions if only we focus on them the right way.

A stereoscopic, three-dimensional view of the Solar system, no matter if you manage to see it only for a few minutes and only once in your life, is something you never forget.

The first point of such profound interest in the story of George comes on pages 69 & 70 of "A father doesn't give up," when George's fiancée, ostensibly and profoundly unhappy with her perceived lack of George's comprehension of her needs, wants to spend a few days by herself. For George, an easy-going and likable guy, the whole trip with Ursula ("Uschi") had been a long string of discoveries that were basically nothing other than a series of unmitigated emotional and social disasters. They were like potholes of various size and destructiveness that one encounters on an arduous journey during a vacation trip gone sour and are remembered for their impact but lack of any redeeming qualities.

Quite frankly, the poor fellow should have had his head examined for sticking with his Uschi, but what was he to do? He was a man and could see no possible way out of his love and commitment to her, no matter what. He was inescapably stuck to the glue of a flycatcher and had not quite reached the point were he had to begin the struggle for his survival. He was to be mired in that glue, and the first sensation of that, in spite of all the prior warnings of the perils to come, was just now beginning to reach the first synapses of his brain.

The book reaches a point of interest here that perhaps most men reach in their lives, but that most who reach it are too busy to take in and behold.




Uschi's prolonged I-want-to-be-by-myself-phase in her room and the invitation to an exhibition in New York earned George several solo-weeks in the Provence. Time to work. Time to think. Time to ask: "Who am I?"
   Everything that he started seemed to go wrong. Even the brush


on the canvas was going crazy. It became difficult for him to sink creative energy into new paintings that were to earn him good money in New York.
   Certainly, his last three relationships had gone on the rocks. Whether "Chauvi, Softy, Macho," [sic] it was all wrong. But how was it to be right? What did women expect of a man? What did Uschi want of him? How was he to be, so that he was right for her? And did he really want to be that?
   Uschi was an alpha she-wolf. How often already had she told him that she didn't want to be a woman! No, not in the meaning that she was attracted to other women and that she had lesbian inclinations. She didn't want to be a woman because she assessed women as the conquered sex. She didn't even want to be a woman who stood as a fully equal partner at the side of her husband. Uschi wanted to reign. If she had to be a woman, then she had to be an Amazon. And if an Amazon, then it had to be Penthesilea, the queen, who had sexual relations with a man only then when he was a hero and simultaneously the slave of her lust.
   At the same time, Uschi was afraid to be a leader, to take on responsibility and to stand up for herself.
   Out of this fear she wailed for firm rules and order, with which she wanted to suppress the chaos that exists in every human life. Out of this fear she screamed for the man, the hero, who would as her slave protect the queen of the Amazons and sacrifice his life for her. Only when her shoe was on his neck, only when he would kiss the foot that kicked him, only then when he became wax in her hands would she be able to trust her might over him and trust herself.
   George never knew anything about psychology, but his



power of observation was keen. And he stored his observations in the cells of his memory capacity as bees store honey in honeycombs.


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Posted 2002 02 07
2002 02 07 (to add reference to additional excerpt)
2007 12 16