Growing up in Lübeck and Tenerife, Inger-Maria Mahlke studied law at the Free University of Berlin, where she worked in the criminology department. She won the 2009 edition of Berlin’s Open Mike event as well as the 2010 Klaus Michael Kühne Prize for her debut novel, Silberfischchen (Aufbau Verlag, 2010). On submitting an excerpt from her novel Rechnung offen (Berlin Verlag, 2012) for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, she won the Ernst Willner Prize. In 2014 she received the Karl Arnold Prize of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences and the Arts. Her most recent novel was Wie ihr wollt (Berlin Verlag, 2015), which was shortlisted for the German Book Prize. Inger-Maria Mahlke lives in Berlin.
It’s 2pm on the 9th of July, plus one or two little minutes. In La Laguna, the archipelago’s old capital, the temperature is 29°C. The sky is clear, cloudless and of such a light blue that it could be white.
This beginning finds Rosa returning to the island and the decrepit house of the formerly influential Bernadotte family. Rosa is searching for something, without knowing what. For a time, it seems she might find it in the asilo, La Laguna’s elderly care home, where the 90-year-old Julio is still employed as a porter. Julio was a courier during the civil war, imprisoned by the Fascists before fleeing and later returning to the island. Today he watches over the last gateway of the living. Julio is Rosa’s grandfather on her mother’s side; the only privileges he has ever known are those enjoyed by others.
Within only a few years, Inger-Maria Mahlke has become one of Germany’s most acclaimed novelists. Each of her books marks a departure into new and more startling territory. In Archipelago she provides a fresh and absorbing perspective on a convulsive century of upheavals and revolutions, of great expectations and small victories. This is Julio’s century, the century of the Baute and Bernadotte families, the Wieses, Moores and Gonzálezes – surnames from across Europe. But there are also those who have no name, like the woman everyone calls “The Cat”, an unmarried mother, cook and tomato packer who suddenly disappeared one day. Sometimes what comes and goes is determined by capricious whims, an accident or even a plainly told and thrilling narrative.