© Elisabeth Stöppler

This red book fell into my hands shortly after its publication in the spring of 2020. Since then, it has reflected my experiences with the worldwide frenzy and standstill caused by the pandemic like no other. And it has inspired me since I opened the first page – in the hope that people will be able to give their utmost in exceptional circumstances, for the sake of others, for the idea of a better world. And in doing so, to give meaning to human life.

At that time I was rehearsing Luigi Nono's AL GRAN SOLE CARICO D'AMORE, had dedicated all my energy to the forgotten revolutionaries Louise Michel, Tania Bunke, Celia Sánchez and Haydée Santamaria, and was driving the highly motivated soloists and the huge choir side by side into theatrical madness - while the entire world was progressively paralysed by a virus.

Our production was cancelled on the day of its premiere, and I digested this unprecedented moment of utter shock at my mother's in springtime Worpswede - and read ANNETTE.
During those first lockdown days, I devoured the song about Anne Beaumanoir (»the child whose name is Anne and everyone calls / Annette (pronounced Annett)«), who joined the communist Resistance as a very young medical student, became involved in the Algerian independence movement, was sentenced to ten years in prison, was involved in building up the Algerian health system as a neurologist after an adventurous escape - and is 96 years old today.

(»She is very old, and as the telling goes, she is still unborn at the same time«).

I read ANNETTE from cover to cover in one breath, I read aloud outside in the garden because I enjoyed this language so much - and then I started again from the beginning, these fast-paced 207 pages again, in which I kept discovering new things in little twists and turns, powerful language and still sounds.

The author's fast, flowing, singing language, with its power and momentum, its accuracy and sensitivity, swept me into the endless and hair-raising episodes of this wild life, immersed me in Anne's erratic mind and body, driven by determination, intuition and maximum idealism, which I followed on all her journeys, into all her hiding places, into all her perils.

If I could, I would want to visit and hug this Anne!

»She doesn't believe in God, but he believes in her / If he exists, he made her.«

In mid-March of this year, exactly two years after the cancelled premiere, AL GRAN SOLE (also a »heroine epic«, a murmuring lament, a painful requiem for the many victims of war and violence) finally went on stage. The women in iridescent sound garb, burdened with love for mankind, were there again, came back to the light, boarded the stage, captured me. At the same time the Russian invasion of Ukraine took place, the war in Europe has begun, and I'm reading ANNETTE again - and hearing her ideas and her love for people in the singing of the forgotten revolutionaries - and again and again in so many other women I meet in life...

Elisabeth Stöppler, on the train just outside Bochum, late in the evening on 27 April 2022