Until i find you

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Until I find you (2005, original title: Until I Find You ) is the eleventh novel by the writer John Irving . It describes the life story of Jack Burns , who is looking for his place in life. The translation is by Dirk van Gunsteren and Nikolaus Stingl .


Jack is four years old. His mother sees in him an actor, but above all a boy who is mentally much more advanced than others his age. You are about to travel to Europe to look for his father, William. This, a passionate organist, had left Alice when she became pregnant. He had recently received his first tattoo from Alice's father, a passage from one of his favorite composers. Alice's father considered William an ink addict , someone who got tattoos over and over until his skin is full. Because Alice wanted William to get to know his child - in the hope that he would return to her - she follows his lead by going to cities that have a church with a well-known organ and asking the organists and tattooists about William there. Since both her father has a good reputation in the scene and Alice has a pronounced talent for tattooing, she can always improve her travel budget by working with tattooists. Eventually she arrives in Halifax, Canada, where Jack was born. From there she follows William on to Toronto, where she and her son are taken in by Mrs. Wicksteed. Everywhere Alice learns of the difficulties that Williams' women stories brought him and caused his steady onward journey. The trip to Europe should now be the last attempt to find William, as Jack is soon going to school. Via Copenhagen, the two continue to Oslo, Helsinki and Amsterdam. But everywhere they seem to be late: William got a tattoo and left town shortly afterwards after his affairs became known. The last information in Amsterdam is that he is on his way to Australia. Alice and Jack head back to Toronto because William does not appear to show any interest in his ex-girlfriend or child. Back in Toronto, Alice and Jack live with Mrs. Wicksteed, who offers the "abused creatures" a permanent home. She pays school fees and dresses Jack. Alice opens her own tattoo studio.

Jack's primary school days are dominated by Emma, ​​a twelve-year-old pubescent girl, whom he met on his first day of school. She knows him, as do many teachers, because his father worked at the same school before he had to leave town. Over the years, an initially strange relationship develops. Jack, fascinated by her delicate female beard, is drawn to Emma. Emma, ​​in turn, takes advantage of this to tie him to her. So it happens that Jack Emma becomes a slave mainly in sexual matters. This is shown in the fact that she helps him get his first erect member and often holds his penis in various situations. Later, Jack is just ten, she introduces him to older girls in the higher grades who make him ejaculate in front of them for the first time. Another reason for the friendship between Jack and Emma is the fact that both mothers have become a couple in the meantime.

Sexually, Jack is drawn to older women from an early age. In order to prepare him to go to an all boys' school after elementary school, Jack begins to learn wrestling. During training, for physical reasons, he has to wrestle with a small, older woman who soon sexually abuses him. It's Emma who makes sure that the woman leaves Jack alone. But neither the wrestling nor older women can get rid of Jack. In his new school he becomes a member of the wrestling team and soon has relationships with various women, including the principal's wife and a dishwasher at the school. His relationships with peers don't last long. As far as his career aspirations are concerned, Jack decided early on that he would be an actor. He has been acting since primary school. He benefits from the fact that he had to play a girl's role at an early age and from then on played predominantly female roles, especially at the girls' school. Even after school and during college, he is constantly applying for female and male roles.

After college, Jack moves to Los Angeles with Emma. Emma has now become a script reader. She is writing her first novel, which shows autobiographical features («Die Schundleserin»). When this one comes out, it becomes a success. Emma prevents a film adaptation of the novel, as she ties it to insurmountable hurdles. Jack learns that Emma has vaginismus , which is why she cannot have normal sex. Emma never had sexual intercourse with Jack either. It doesn't take long for Jack to receive a first film offer in which he plays a transvestite. The film is not a commercial success, but Jack is known for his acting. More books and films follow: Emma's second novel is filmed and Jack plays the leading role in it, for which he receives an Oscar nomination. Now Jack is a star.

Emma dies surprisingly of a heart disease, Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome , which has led to an arrhythmia . She suffered from obesity and depression because, according to her own statements, she could not finish her third novel. In her will, she designated Jack as the sole heir, including all rights to her literary works. Emma hadn't written on another novel, but started a script for her first novel. She never sold the rights to this book because she set her demands very high. It now turns out that Emma was thinking far ahead. It had only been some time before that she had got Jack saying he was writing something. Now she has set his course as a screenwriter and bequeathed her script to him. He finishes writing the book, starring the film with him, and receiving several Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor and Best Screenplay, Jack Wins.

Jack's mother Alice dies of breast cancer. She had become estranged from Jack for the past few years. Lately, Jack has also felt like his mother was different at times. The reason for this were metastases in the brain, in an area that controls the emotional life. Little by little, Jack learns that his mother has lied to him all his life. He receives photos of Leslie, his mother's friend and Emma's mother, showing his mother's tattoo, a broken heart, token of her broken love for William. Alice always said she had no tattoo. It also turns out that his father wanted to have contact with him, but not with Alice. Jack embarks on the journey he made as a child again. He finds that almost everything he remembers is true. Turned around: it was not his mother who followed William, but he her. She wanted to ensure that he could see Jack on her terms by returning to her and loving and respecting her. But since William refused to accept this demand, Jack took them as bait and moved on.

So it happens that Jack learns from his parents 'former acquaintances that Alice systematically destroyed Williams' life by driving his new friends away, sometimes even driving them to their death. She destroyed his reputation by working as a prostitute and so exposed William, as she made public on her situation, allegedly caused by William, primarily in the churches in which William was active. In Amsterdam, the last stop on their trip at the time, Jack learns that his parents made a deal there: William provided his son with financial security and promised not to contact him. In return, Alice promised to give up her reprehensible way of life and to ensure a solid education and a safe growth for Jack.

Jack goes into therapy. He wants to put his life in order. Then he receives a reference to his half-sister Heather. His father has been in a sanatorium for some time. Due to osteoarthritis, he could no longer play the organ, which would have thrown him out of his life. Jack travels to Scotland and meets his sister. He sees a ray of hope for his situation and wants to live with her and his father in order to finally have his family. But Heather wants Jack to see his father first and to be able to tell her with an open heart that he loves him. So Jack travels to the sanatorium near Zurich to finally meet his father. This shows himself to him as he is: a person marked by life, who knows everything about his son from his films, can even quote them, but is torn inside by the long forced separation. He can no longer play the organ, which kept him alive until then. So he got aggressive and acted weird. Certain words cause him to undress and show off his tattoos no matter where he is. The body is tattooed all over, except for the head, neck, hands and feet.

Jack calls his sister. He confesses to her his love for her father and the desire to buy a house for both siblings in Zurich so that they can be close to their father, who can only live in a sanatorium.


Irving let his protagonist Jack win the Oscar , which he won in 2000 for his screenplay for his novel The Work of God and the Devil's Contribution . In the novel, Emma wanted to ensure that she as a writer would have more say in the implementation of a future film, including the cast and the script. She set her demands on film rights so high because she knew that no producer would get involved. At the same time, Irving had experienced what he saw as a major fiasco when filming his work Owen Meany . Since he had no influence on this film, he finally managed to rename the project. Possibly to be understood as Irving's swipe at Hollywood's producers, Jack Burns receives these rights in the novel and helps Emma achieve a posthumous triumph.


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