The wall (novel)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Wall is a novel by the German writer Max Annas from 2016. It is set in a gated community in South Africa , in which the intrusion of a young black person triggers a chase that ends in a spiral of violence. The novel won the German Crime Prize 2017.


Actually, Moses, a black student from East London in South Africa, only wanted to help Professor Brinsley with the move. But when his old car, the trunk full of discarded books, breaks down between Abbotsford and Dorchester Heights, he comes up with the idea of looking for help in the gated community The Pines, which is surrounded by a high wall . He slips through the entrance gate, but then no longer remembers exactly where his fellow student, whom he visited once, lives or what his real name is. So he wanders disoriented through the streets full of similar houses and front gardens, gets targeted by surveillance cameras and, because of his skin color, arouses the suspicion of the predominantly white population of the monitored small settlement. When two patrolling security guards who exuding joy in the violence want to confront him, he instinctively decides to flee and thus triggers a large-scale operation by a private security company.

With this, Moses gets in the way of two other blacks who actually sneaked into the settlement with dubious intentions: Thembikosi and Nozipho, two casual thieves who have just broken into an empty house. There they not only make rich booty, but also discover a corpse in a freezer. But they can no longer leave the house because the security service sets up its headquarters in front of it while hunting for Moses. He rushes through the front gardens of the settlement. He has long since given up hope of roadside assistance and just wants to leave the gated community, but at the edge he only encounters an insurmountable wall and troops looking for him repeatedly drive him away from the entrance gate. Several times he has to physically defend himself against access. Eventually he breaks into a house and involuntarily witnesses a sexual act, which, when discovered, also leads to the fact that he is accused of assault and attempted rape and that the hunt for him continues to intensify.

In the meantime the residents of the house in which Thembikosi and Nozipho are hiding have returned home. From their overheard conversations, the two thieves learn that the dead woman was the mother-in-law of one of the two men and that the stolen goods were stolen from her. When a sniffer dog, who is supposed to be looking for Moses, strikes in front of their house, the two murderers feel caught and provoke a shootout with the police, which has now been switched on, to which they fall victim. In the meantime, one of the two security guards shoots a black man running away from him at another location for no other reason than that he looked like Moses. When he proudly boasted that he had killed the “ Kaffir ”, a powder keg ignited at this word. A black policeman chases his sniffer dog on the security guard. A white security guard shoots the dog, giving the signal that everyone should take up their arms. It is no longer a question of who is a police officer, guard or security guard. It's all about black versus white, and everyone shoots each other.

Only Moses, Thembikosi and Nozipho escape the massacre. Moses is picked up by his girlfriend Sandi, who has the presence of mind to hand out an old van as a summoned ambulance. Thembikosi and Nozipho hide in a garbage truck that passes the exit gate unmolested. However, they had to leave their suitcase with the booty behind. That is what the old gardener Meli finds, who has been harassed all day by his master Mrs. Viljoen for a starvation wage. When he leaves the burning settlement, he just thinks it's been a strange day.


Max Annas lived in South Africa for seven and a half years because of a research assignment on South African jazz. As an outsider and observer of South African society, he was "fascinated by the brutality with which opposites such as poor and rich or with and without education in the country clash in public." The gated community is typical for him, as in the country after End of apartheid the access is regulated and at the same time a contradiction to urban life. It is also an "invitation for a drama". In the novel, he simply reverses its function: the wall does not keep anyone from outside, but traps someone from inside; it "prevents the solution of a problem that should not have arisen in the first place."

The gated community The Pines in the novel is a fictional place. However, it has its origins in The Quigney district in East London, a white working-class neighborhood in which Annas herself lived. When he led two artist friends, the Cameroonian Guy Woueté and the South African Khanyo Mjamba, through the district in 2012 or 2013, the former wanted to take a closer look at a building, but was held back by the local with the warning: “Yeah, sure, you go inside and they shoot at you immediately. "This sense of a black man for the dangers that threaten him simply because of his skin color was for Annas" the key moment that burned itself into me. "

Together with Annas' first novel The Farm and an as yet unpublished novel called The City , The Wall forms a trilogy of chaos . The novels of the trilogy are not connected by characters, but by the unity of time and space and each take place on a day or night. They revolve around the three motifs of possession ( the farm ), race ( the wall ) and sexual violence ( the city ).


The wall reached third place in the annual ranking of the 2016 best crime list and was voted first in the national category of the 2017 German Crime Prize . Jury member Ulrich Noller was impressed by Annas' ability to “pack clever plots into concentrated, lean, captivating thrillers”. He condenses the society of South Africa in one place and plays out its conflicts "in a model arrangement like on a stage". The integration of the urban architecture gives the story a special charm.

According to Karin Schimke, Annas builds “an explosive situation” out of a wall, a few intruders, a “sociopolitical milieu like a fuse” and inflated egos. Everything boils down to “a trigger-happy resolution” that is as absurd as it is comical and “reminiscent of a bloodbath in a Tarantino film”. For Elmar Krekeler, Die Mauer is “the most slag-free thriller that is currently available. Fast, tough and dangerous. A cheetah in book form. ”In 115 short chapters you race towards a“ real shootout ”. According to Christiane Müller-Lobeck, Annas tells "in short, breathless sentences and rapid changes of perspective in real time, on 220 crisp pages." Although Hannes Hintermeier feels tired from the "continuous sprint", "Annas' multi-perspective figure direction leads from going it alone to a full one." Stage - and a very fun finish. "

Sylvia Staude describes the novel as "gorgeous, elegantly constructed and light-footed, but not lightweight", as well as being "laconically told" and "a bit sarcastic". And although it is not treated with a raised index finger, racism is the theme throughout. For Thomas Wörtche it is a “brilliant, action-packed crime thriller at the height of the times.” The wall is not only a symbol for South Africa, but also for catchphrases like “ Fortress Europe ” or Donald Trump's wall on the border between the United States and Mexico . It's about "inside and outside, about inclusion and exclusion, about the ravages of racism that only losers know, about hysterical, ultimately uncontrollable violence as an alleged ultima ratio of fear and distrust of the respective 'other'."


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. In conversation - Max Annas . At
  2. Max Annas: The blood trail of our days . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung of April 3, 2017.
  3. Tobias Gohlis : "Killing is everyday life" . In: Die Zeit from November 17, 2016.
  4. Tobias Gohlis : The best crime novels of 2016 . In: Die Zeit from December 15, 2016.
  5. 33rd German Crime Prize 2017 at
  6. Karin Schimke: Of petty hatred and great injustices . In: Deutschlandfunk from February 28, 2017.
  7. Elmar Krekeler: When the gated community becomes a death trap . In: Die Welt from July 21, 2016.
  8. Christiane Müller-Lobeck: Moses in the trap . In: the daily newspaper of July 15, 2016.
  9. Hannes Hintermeier : The second book is always the hardest . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of July 18, 2016.
  10. Sylvia Staude: When the color of the skin decides everything . In: Frankfurter Rundschau from June 28, 2016.
  11. Thomas Wörtche : Closed society . In: Deutschlandfunk Kultur from June 1, 2016.