144 pp., 5 x 8 in,
- Published: November 5, 2019
In a novel set against a transforming Berlin, an artist confronts a diagnosis of breast cancer.
Going to openings and parties, setting up a studio and breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, Noora is living the post–art school life in Berlin when, in 2005, she's diagnosed with breast cancer. Vaguely restless, until now she's been neither happy nor unhappy, but her entry into what she calls “Cancerland” forces her to question the assumptions by which she lived her life so far. Uneasily, she realizes that the “relationships of the soul” she and her friends value over everything else might not be as indelible as family, after all.
In this sharp and picaresque first novel, conceptual artist Annette Weisser depicts the transformation of Berlin from the frontier city of the cold war to an international art hub as an analog and backdrop to the chaotic, corporeal transformation Noora undergoes through cancer and its treatments. Written in the casual, associative style of a female coming-of-age novel, Mycelium examines German trauma, art school dramas, and the inevitable parsing into winners and losers that her generation undergoes as they enter their mid-thirties.
Annette Weisser writes about the impossible task of leaving trauma behind. Trained to consume, and supposedly produce a "culture of memory" without ever being able to get to the root of things, she and her generation discover that neither social networks nor artmaking offer any release. Diagnosed with cancer, Weisser's narrator discovers a new, unflinching way to look at herself and others, melding body and mind. By turns ugly and beautiful, Mycelium is a deeply affecting, important and emotional work.
Mycelium is rich with ideas; it brings the personal and the political together through prose that is spare and, occasionally, disorienting. This is a novel about one woman's life, but it's also a meditation on art, illness, urbanity, and history.