A – Z | Housekeeper

For Marcel Proust she was the “Kitchen Michelangelo” – only stubborn towards people. She has long since ceased to be part of the family. Our lexicon


Abyss The nanny, the Nounou, is supposed to save the small Parisian family from the abyss. Myriam has not worked since graduating from law school, she is jealous of her husband Paul, the music producer.

The nanny should have papers, “otherwise not too old, unveiled and non-smoker. The most important thing is that it is flexible and not so boring. That she works so that we can toil “says Paul. The discriminatory tone makes Myriam uncomfortable. Then the white Louise comes from the banlieue, she makes herself indispensable, wins the heart of Adam and even that of the capricious Mila. But Louise is facing her own abyss. Being crushed by debt, there is this loneliness. The novel begins with the tragedy (➝ Murderous), followed by the search for clues. Leila Slimanis Then you sleep too, Awarded the Prix Concourt in 2016, is a gripping moral picture, you don’t put the book down. Katharina Schmitz


Glare The only novel by Elias Canetti, for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1981, divides the criticism: “Intoxicated by misanthropy”, “too abstract”, it is said about The blinding, “Ultramodern” the other time. Canetti leads his staff into the laboratory: to the sinologist Kien, who is entrenched behind thousands of books with his contempt for human beings and who considers women to be human-like animals. Theresa, his housekeeper, then wife, will attack him and his library like a bloodhound. Theresa “would have dissolved into her main components, skirt, sweat and ears, if the hatred of” Kien, which the “increased with the lust of a pedant” had not become her purpose of existence. At the end of this blind woman, Theresa and her helpers are put out of action – Kien goes down in the flames of his library. Helena Neumann


Maid’s room In 1990 I lived in a room all to myself. It was a romantic luxury for a girl from the country and abroad who had just graduated from high school. I lived in a “chambre de bonne” not far from the invalids in Paris. All I had to do was clean the grand rooms of a family. The room was maybe 10 square meters. A sink. A cooking facility. The famous standing toilet in the hallway. At night the background noise was eerie and like in a movie theater, the view into the window of the neighbors in the backyard was at the blue hour.

On some days, while I was perhaps dusting off the family’s huge vases, the scion of the house was lounging on the royal sofa, talking about his weekend tour to Normandy in a convertible. I told about my hitchhiking trip to Trier. My life was much more cinematic than his! The fact that he was not (yet) blessed with beauty made my plea, I admit it, easier. I didn’t know, but it was definitely class pride with which I lectured here. Katharina Schmitz


Servant question In 1900 the liberal economist Oskar Stillich distributed 9,000 questionnaires among Berlin servants in order to get to the bottom of the problems summarized in the so-called servant question for the first time. Because the “girls” who were subject to the law of servants began to defend themselves by migrating to other professions or by fighting for better working conditions. After the First World War at the latest, most bourgeois women had to run their own household. In the 21st century, the old questions return with the servants, which hardly shows any historical progress. Ulrike Baureithel


Engels/Marx Karl Marx had a housekeeper. As a scientist, he was not easy to speak of with “lackeys”. His large family was never rich. But Lenchen Demuth had served in the wealthy birth house of his wife Jenny and made friends with her there. Jenny’s mother allowed her to join the Marx family, whose survival depended for a long time on her economic intelligence. After Marx’s death, she moved to Friedrich Engels’s household, where she discovered the manuscripts for the second volume of “Capital” in Marx’s estate. August Bebel, the great SPD chairman, called her a “loyal comrade”. Michael Hunter


Françoise She is the “kitchen Michelangelo” of the family in Proust’s novel In Search of Lost Time. The genius of “culinary masterpieces” is the counterpart to narrator and author. In her “little temple of Venus” with all the pots, terrines and pots she graciously receives the “offerings” from the milkman, vegetable woman or fruit dealer. She conjures up leg of mutton or chicken as well as brioche or chocolate cream. But their Bœuf mode en gelée, beef with the scent of carrots, stored on “enormous jelly crystals” is legendary. She selects the ingredients in the market as carefully as Michelangelo spent months in the mountains of Carrara looking for the perfect marble. Of course, she also has other, stubborn sides, melts from read fates, but is pitiless towards real people, serving the family asparagus ad nauseam because the unpopular kitchen maid has to peel it. Erhard Schütz


Cleaning the toilet Jim Carrey reportedly said, “I wish everyone got rich and famous. So everyone could see that that is not the solution. ”Unfortunately, it is like a fence that you cannot look behind, and so there is a promise in everything behind it. Wouldn’t it be better with it than without it? And so it is with domestic staff. If you don’t have one, you miss it (Central mediation), once you have it, you realize that the only way to clean the toilet properly is your own. With scouring milk or with a citrus cleaner? With a green sponge or rag? Hartmut Rosa would perhaps name this problem and write a thousand pages. I can only tell you the cleaning person himself. But now I have to clean, the urine stone shouldn’t want to be chiseled. A Nina Hagen cover is playing in the background. Jan C. Behmann


Murderous Already the name Dolores. It means pain in Latin. That is the name of the murderous housekeeper in Stephen King’s novel of the same name (1992). Dolores Claiborne is interrogated by the police on suspicion of murdering her employer. This was found at the foot of a staircase – an accident? The old lady had bullied Dolores for years and suddenly she is supposed to have made her sole heir? However, the suspicion of the murderous domestic help does not grow. But Dolores reveals to have killed her husband decades earlier to escape the toxic relationship. The interrogation thus becomes a life confession of a battered woman (➝ abyss). Tobias Prüwer


Njanja The Russian counterpart to the nanny? Who does not know Mary Poppins, invented in 1935 by the Australian Pamela Travers. But Arina Rodionovna (1758 – 1828), Pushkin’s Nyanja, became so famous that there is a museum and several monuments to her. Again and again the poet has immortalized them in his works. As a child he hung on her lips when she told fairy tales and sang songs. As a “dear friend of my poor youth”, she later remained his confidante (Engels/Marx). She shared the exile to the Mikhailovskoye estate from 1824 to 1826 with him. What about the mother? For her, he was the second of eight children who saw the light of day in quick succession – and who had African ancestors. A story in itself. Irmtraud Gutschke


Puff crown The “Schmolken” has a rough sensitivity, which is why she is not only indispensable for the housekeeping of her employer. She also kneads the souls of the family as if it were bread dough. Because that has to be when “the heart finds its way to the heart”, like Fontane’s novel Mrs. Jenny Treibel, this milieu boss from Adlerstrasse during the early days of Berlin. When the daughter of the house overcomes the marriage rage, the “Schmolken” has a clear view of the hopeless of desire: the veto of the mother-in-law, Mrs. Jenny Treibel, will be terrible. “You can’t turn the whole world upside down … just to do the old councilor with her puffed head and her diamond pompom”, she snorts, very angry mother of a stray fool. The kitchen lesson becomes a moral study of the instinct of ordinary people. Lutz herds


racism Hattie McDaniel wasn’t just the first African American actress to be nominated for an Oscar. It was a sensation when the daughter of former slaves won the trophy in 1940 for her supporting role as the resolute house slave Mammy, who did not spare criticism of her white mistress Blown by the wind won. Unlike her black co-stars, who were only tolerated in the lobby, McDaniel was allowed to sit in the room at the Oscars, but far enough away from the white stars Vivian Leigh and Clark Gable. Some stations are now pointing to the transfiguration of racist slavery in the southern epic. Even if McDaniel is considered a pioneer in the industry, decades later she still has to grapple with questions of equality and representation in the film industry. Helena Neumann


Central mediation Digitalization is also shaping households. Via platforms like helpling.de, maideasy.de or putzperle.de (In the past housekeepers were sometimes called “pearls”) Maids can be booked for your own household. The job description has changed: Very few housekeepers are now extended family members (➝ Njanja) for years, mostly they are hired on short notice – on a temporary basis. The working conditions are flexible. But by no means all of the aids are women. In most major German cities there are more men who offer their services as housekeepers. In addition, there are now couples on the market who work together in unfamiliar apartments: Mohamed & Maria, Selma & Raif, Jude & Ekeh. Do they keep things tidy together at home? Ben Mendelson

Read more in the current issue of Friday.



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