LKE3 2000/2001 12,2  2. Klausur 28/08/2000 Stoff: Textaufgabe (Nick Hornby) + Zusatzaufgaben



I am in a car park in Leeds when I tell my husband I don’t want to be married to him any more. David isn’t even in the car park with me. He’s at home, looking after the kids, and I have only called him to remind him that he should write a note for Molly’s class teacher. The other bit just sort of … slips out. This is a mistake, obviously. Even though I am apparently, and to my immense surprise, the kind of person who tells her husband that she doesn’t want to be married to him any more, I really didn’t think that I was the kind of person to say so in a car park, on a mobile phone. That particular self-assessment will now have to be revised, clearly. I can describe myself as the kind of person who doesn’t forget names, for example, because I have remembered names thousands of times and forgotten them only once or twice. But for the majority of people, marriage-ending conversations happen only once, if at all. If you choose to conduct yours on a mobile phone, in a Leeds car park, then you cannot really claim that it is unrepresentative, in the same way that Lee Harvey Oswald couldn’t really claim that shooting presidents wasn’t like him at all. Sometimes we have to be judged on our one-offs.  

Later in the hotel room, when I can’t sleep – and that is some sort of consolation, because even though I have turned into the woman who ends marriages in a car park, at least I have the decency to toss and turn afterwards – I retrace the conversation in my head, in as much detail as I can manage, trying to work out how we’d got from there (Molly’s dental appointment) to here (imminent divorce) in three minutes. Ten, anyway. Which turns into an endless, three-in-the-morning brood about how we’d got from there (meeting at a college dance in 1976) to here (imminent divorce) in twenty-four years.


To tell you the truth, the second part of this self-reflection only takes so long because twenty-four years is a long time, and there are loads of bits that come unbidden into your head, little narrative details, that don’t really have to do much with the story. If my thoughts about our marriage had been turned into a film, the critics would say that it was all padding, no plot, and that it could be summarized thus: two people fall in love, have kids, start arguing, get fat and grumpy (him) and bored and desperate and grumpy (her) and split up. I wouldn’t argue with the synopsis. We’re are nothing special.


The phone call, though … I keep missing the link, the point where it turned from a relatively harmonious and genuinely banal chat about minor domestic arrangements into this cataclysmic, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it moment. I can remember the beginning of it, almost word for word:

    Me: ‘Hiya.’

    Him: ‘Hello. How’s it going?’

    Me: ‘Yeah, fine. Kids all right?’

    Him: ‘Yeah. Molly’s here watching TV, Tom’s round at Jamie’s.’

    Me: ‘I just phoned to say that you’ve got to write a note for Molly to take in to school tomorrow. About the


See? See? It can’t be done, you’d think, not from here. But you’d be wrong, because we did it. I’m almost sure that the first leap was made here, at this point; the way I remember it now, there was a pause, an ominous silence, at the other end of the line. And then I said something like ‘What?’ and he said ‘Nothing’. And I said ‘What?’ again and he said ‘Nothing’ again except he clearly wasn’t baffled or amused by my question, just tetchy, which means, does it not, that you have to plough on. So I ploughed on.

    ‘Come on.’


    ‘Come on.’

    ‘No. What you said.’

     ‘What did I say?’

     ‘About just phoning to remind me about Molly’s note.’

    ‘What’s wrong with that?’

    ‘It’d be nice if you just phoned for some other reason. You know, to say hello. To see how your husband and your              

     children are.’

    ‘Oh, David.’

    ‘What, “Oh David”?’

    ‘That was the first thing I asked. “How are the kids?”’

    ‘Yeah. OK. “How are the kids?” Not, you know, “How are you?”’

You don’t get conversations like this when things are going well. It is not difficult to imagine that in other, better relationships, a phone call that began in this way would not and could not lead to talk of divorce. In better relationships you could sail right through the dentist part and move on to other topics. David and I, however … this is not our situation, not any more. Phone calls like ours only happen when you’ve spent several years hurting and being hurt, until every word you utter or hear becomes coded and loaded, as complicated and full of subtext as a bleak and brilliant play. […]


Opening passage, taken from Nick Hornby’s latest novel   How to be Good  published in 2001  



I. Questions on the text:  Read all the questions first, then answer them in the given order. Use your own words as far as is appropriate.  All quotations must be marked as such (giving the line or lines).

1) What does the reader learn about the protagonist’s relationship with her husband, David? (ll. 1 – 22)   20 points  

2) What is the effect Nick Hornby achieves by including the fateful phone call? (ll. 23 – 54)   20 points  

3) Analyse  the narrative perspective, the mode of presentation and the tone of the opening passage of Nick Hornby’s latest novel How to be Good. Give evidence from the text.     20 points


II. Essay: Choose one of the following topics and write about 150 words. Please, count your words at the end andmake sure that you don’t write more than 160 words !                                                              30 points

1) The relationship between man and woman has often been dealt with in literature. Choose one work by an English-speaking author and show how this topic is treated. (LK Abitur 2000 !)  

2) Parents –still role models for young people? (LK Abitur 1999)

3) Does marriage still have a chance today? (LK Abitur 1998)

4) Parents should not interfere in their children’s choice of partner. Discuss. (LK Abitur 1998)

5) Which should come first – personal fulfilment or responsibility towards one’s family? (gk Abitur 2000)

6) Staying single – a desirable way of life? (gk Abitur 1996)

7) The English proverb Marry in haste, repent at leisure! is the exact opposite of the German saying Früh gefreit nie bereut. Which of these proverbs seems more appropriate to you?

III. Landeskunde:  In the speech Tony Blair delivered outside Number Ten Downing Street on the morning after his landslide victory he said: “The purpose of each and every change that we make must be this, to create a society which is a genuine, open, meritocratic nation.” Pick two such changes,                          commenting on the”meritocratic” aspect.         10 points


[IV. Vocabulary: What’s the English? Taken from word lists 10 – 12,

“Through the Tunnel”, “About a Boy”, Joy of Revision 1

Please, write the answers on the first page of your

“Schulaufgabenblatt”, using one line per answer.


     20x1/2 = 10 points   1) Wahlkreis; 2) Oberschenkel;

3) schmuddelig, ungepflegt; 4) belästigen, plagen; 5) vom

Weg abkommen, streunen; 6) Ernährer (der Familie);

7) Streikbrecher (not “strikebreaker”); 8) Abendkasse;

9) Scheiterhaufen; 10) Ansatz (= wie man z.B. an ein

Thema herangeht etc.); 11) aussetzen (z.B. einer Gefahr,                                                  

Wind und Wetter); 12) Streikposten; 13) geschweige denn;                                          

14) zerknirscht; 15) schüchtern, gehemmt; 16) verheerend,

vernichtend (not  “destroying“); 17) Falltüre; 18) politischer

Berater (buzz word !); 19) Wende, Umschwung; 20) nahtlos;]

 [The vocabulary part is, of course, of NO INTEREST to those who did not attend LKE3,12,2 2000/20002! Still, you might want to test t your "word power". Who knows, a word like "zerknirscht", "politischer Berater" or "Scheiterhaufen" might come in useful at some time, particularly for a contrite spin doctor on a pyre !!!]