The Local View ? Neighbourhood Cinemas and Alternative Film Projects

Many small neighbourhood cinemas invested in the future. The digital options for showing films are opening up new vistas for alternative projects. Not all of them are legal.... more more

GoetheInstitute

15/04/2005

Books this Season: Fiction and Poetry

Spring 2005

Here we introduce the most talked about (for better or for worse) books of the spring season 2005. The German newspapers have long and (for us) tedious names, so we use abbreviations. Here a key to them.

Experience beats youth, this literary spring at least! Established talents like Orhan Pamuk, Juri Andruchowytsch or Jorge Semprum divide the credits between them. But there's a strong crop of home-grown second novels from Martina Hefter, Andreas Maier and Rainer Merkel, all vying for attention. On the poetry front, Thomas Kling shines brilliantly from the grave. And as for nonfiction, the Second World War features so heavily that we've had to devote an entire section to it alone.

Novels: Everybody's darlings

A great, European novel: it is rare for the critics to be as united in praise as they are about Orhan Pamuk's "Snow". Pamuk, born 1952 in Istanbul, has won Turkey's Orhan Kemal Novel prize (1983), the Independent Foreign Fiction Award (1990), the Prix de la decouverte Europeene (1991) and the International IMPAC Dublin literary award (2003). In "Schnee", a poet travels to a remote Turkish village where strange things are afoot: girls are committing suicide because they've been forced to take off their veils and an actor has staged a coup which turns out to be much more than theatre. Nobody can leave town due to the endlessly falling snow. An extreme narrative but far from a "market-driven shocker" writes the FR. For the SZ Pamuk's work is all things at once: social study, love story, political parable, inspiration for poetry and a close-up picture of contemporary Turkey. The taz sees in the novel the national drama of Turkey and the NZZ enjoys the "bitter humour of a moralist".

"Zwölf Ringe", (twelve rings) the latest novel from Yuri Andrukhovych (homepage), born 1960 in Ivano-Frankivsk, ensures the author remains the critic's postmodern Ukrainian favourite. In "Zwölf Ringe" Austrian photographer Karl-Joseph Zumbrunnen travels through Ukraine in the 1990s, observing the teething pains of the new state: the crass commercialisation, the persistence of Huzulen folklore, the re-Sovietisation, and the nostalgia for the Habsburg era. The photographer finds Ukraine much more exciting than life in the West, especially after falling in love with his interpreter. While staying at the "Inn on the Moon" in the Carpathians, he meets oligarchs, intellectuals, striptease dancers and, in the end, his maker. According to Ilma Rakusa of the NZZ, the narrative, which in retrospect seems almost "trivial", leaves her free to concentrate on the many "literary (and other) allusions". Her colleague Hubert Spiegel is reminded of the "magic realism" of Italo Calvino and Bram Stoker and observes with fascination how Andrukhovych makes his characters dance.

To Martina Hefter, one of Germany's most prominent young women novelists, the high expectations raised by her celebrated first novel "Junge Hunde" (young dogs) were obviously water off a duck's back. Her new book, "Zurück auf Los" (back to the start) is a woman's detailed account of the night her partner leavesher, a night in which memories and events are densely interwoven. The tale of loss plays exclusively in the protagonist's imagination; the FR cannot get enough of Hefter's "poetological finesse" and the SZ praises her "fine-pored", regulative language which curbs the strong emotions, heightening them further. (here an excerpt in German). Rainer Merkel likewise presents his second novel: "Das Gefühl am Morgen". The FR writes that the story, which involves two people silently falling in love in a shell-shaped bar, is "thought through to the last detail" and makes Merkel one of the "most exciting German-speaking authors". The FAZ is fascinated by Merkel's penetration of the "psychological centre" of the 1980s, the decade in which the novel is set. The reviewer was highly impressed by the description of the narcissistic father in whose shadow the protagonist struggles to grow up. And Die Zeit sees the book as a coming-of-age tale, "more arduous and interesting" than just a love story.

Jorge Semprun's novel "Zwanzig Jahre und ein Tag" (twenty years and a day) has also been received with great enthusiasm. Semprun, born 1923 in Madrid, has lived in France since the Spanish Civil War. While the novel centres around the murder of an estate-holder's son who is shot by rebelling farmworkers at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the actual action is set in the 1950s during the Franco regime. The NZZ is impressed by Semprun's successful creation of a "magically melancholic atmosphere" around a "hard political core". Die Zeit calls David Bezmozgis' debut "Natascha" ("Natasha") a "great novel about a near-gone century". Bezmozgis' account of the arrival of a Latvian family in Canada in the 1980s is based on his own experience. He describes the awkward attempts to fit in, to learn a new language and to get the family business - a massage practice - off the ground. Die Zeit's summary: "It is easy as a Jew to lose oneself in the world, but it's not quite so easy to escape Mummy's love." The NZZ wallows in the "lucid melancholy and laconic humour", while the taz enjoys the complete absence of Soviet nostalgia.


Novels: Opinion dividers


Uwe Tellkamp's long-anticipated "Der Eisvogel" (the ice-bird) has set a cat among the critical pigeons. The taz calls it the "disappointment of the season" while the SZ sees in it "an enormously vivid society portrait". "Der Eisvogel" tells the story of a group of young far-right terrorists who want to erect a caste- and class-based state in Germany (here an excerpt in German). Tellkamp, born in 1968 in Dresden, served his army service as a tank commander in the East German national army. After refusing to take the offensive against a political demonstration in October 1989 - his brother was among the demonstrators - Tellkamp was charged with "political sabotage". He was jailed and forced to abandon studying medicine. By the time he was released, the Wall had fallen. Tellkamp completed his medical studies and today works in an emergency clinic in Munich, writing on the side. In 2004 he won the most prestigious award for young German authors, the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize.

Has Andreas Maier reached a "new heights of achievement", as Die Zeit claims, or does his latest novel "Kirillow" reflect "arrogance and a hunger for fame", as the SZ taunts? In the 1980s, the anti-atomic movement is gathering steam and a group of students at the university in Frankfurt are becoming increasingly radical in their political convictions. After much theorising, speculating and intransigent discussion, talk turns to action. For an enthusiastic taz, it's a political novel that "deconstructs with relish" all attempts to be political. The SZ asks indignantly: "Why all the blabber?"


Poetry

The critics' elegies for Thomas Kling's volume of poetry "Auswertung der Flugdaten" (flight data analysis) were overshadowed by the news of the poet's premature death. Kling, born 1957 in Bingen, winner of the Else Lasker Schüler Prize for Poetry (1993) and the Huchel Prize (1997), long ago started to incorporate his illness into his texts, which, writes Hubert Winkel of Die Zeit "sparkle coldly in technical blue hues". Winkel describes the third part of the work, in which Kling cleverly combines essayistic and poetic forms as "outrageously successful". The NZZ is warmed by the heat Kling generates by rubbing together parts of speech from the past and the present and is awed by the "imagery of such intense brilliancy".


Fiction and Poetry / World War II / Politics / Nonfiction

Get the signandsight newsletter for regular updates on feature articles.
signandsight.com - let's talk european.

 
More articles

No one is indestructible

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

TeaserPicA precision engineer of the emotions, Peter Nadas traces the European upheavals of the past century in his colossal and epic novel "Parallel Stories", which was published in English in December. The core and epicentre of the novel is the body, which bears the marks of history and trauma. In his seemingly chaotic intertwining of lives and stories, Nadas penetrates the depths of the human animal with unique insight. A review by Joachim Sartorius
read more

Road tripping across the ideological divide

Wednesday 1 February, 2012

TeaserPicThe USA and the USSR should not simply be thought of as arch enemies of the Cold War. Beyond ideology, the two nations were deeply interested in one another. Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov were thrilled by the American Way of Life in 1935/6, John Steinbeck and Robert Capa praised the sheer vitality of the Russian people in 1947. Historian Karl Schlögel reviews a perfect pair of travel journals. Photo by Ilf and Petrov.
read more

Language without a childhood

Monday 23 January 2012

TeaserPicTurkish-born author, actor and director Emine Sevgi Özdamar was recently awarded the Alice Salomon Prize for Poetics. Coming to West Berlin in 1965, Özdamar first learned German at the age of 19. After stage school she went on to become the directorial assistant to Benno Besson and Matthias Langhoff at the Volksbühne in East Berlin while still living in West Berlin. Harald Jähner warmly lauds the author's uniquely visual sense of her acquired language and her ability to overcome the seemingly insurmountable dividing line through the city.
read more

Friendship in the time of terror

Monday 9 January 2012

Nadezhda Mandelstam's personal memories of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, her intimate friend, offer a unique and moving testimony to friendship and resistance over decades of persecution. Published only after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the text is still unavailable in English but has recently been translated into German. A unique historical document, celebrating an intellectual icon in an age of horror. Portrait of Akhmatova by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin.
read more

Just one drop of forgetfulness

Thursday 8 December, 2011

TeaserPicThis year is the 200th anniversary of the death of German writer Heinrich von Kleist. The author Gertrud Leutenegger has a very Kleistian afternoon on Elba, when she encounters the Marquise von O in the waiting room of a very strange eye doctor.
read more

German Book Prize 2011 - the short list

Tuesday 4 October, 2011

TeaserPicEugen Ruge has won the German Book Prize with his novel "In Zeiten des abnehmenden Lichts" (In times of fading light), an autobiographical story of an East German family. The award is presented to the best German-language novel just before the start of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Here we present this year's six shortlisted authors and exclusive English translations of excerpts from their novels.

read more

Torment and blessing

Wednesday 28 September, 2011

Chinese dissident Liao Yiwu escaped into exile in Germany in July this year. His new book about his life in Chongqing prison has just been published in German as "Für Ein Lied und Hundert Lieder". Both book and author have a life-threatening odyssey behind them. I am overjoyed that Liao Yiwu is here with us and not at home in prison. By Herta Müller
read more

In the vortex of congealed time

Monday 12 September, 2011

No other European city suffered more in World War II than Leningrad under siege, when over a million people lost their lives. Russian literature delivers a rich testimony of the events which have been all but forgotten by the West. Only a few works, though, also do the disaster aesthetic justice. By Oleg Yuriev
read more

My unrelenting vice

Tuesday 6 September 2011

In this apology for the vice of reading, Bora Cosic describes the magnificent and fantastic discoveries of one of its practitioners – revealing how texts contain what we bring to them, how we sometimes read without reading and how books are not only found in books but many other places. 
read more

Potential market, no buyers

Monday 4 July, 2011

The most successful Croatian book of 2008 sold exactly 1,904 copies. Not what one could really call a market, although together the successor republics represent a single language community. A look at the situation of publishers and authors in the former Yugoslavia. By Norbert Mappes-Niediek.
read more

Head versus hand

Monday 27 June, 2011

TeaserPicThis year's German International Literature Award goes to "Venushaar", a Russian novel that starts out as a dialogue between an asylum seeker and an immigration officer, and opens into a vast choir of voices. A conversation with its author Mikhail Shishkin, a literary giant in his own country, and his German translator Andreas Tretner. By Ekkehard Knörer. (Image: Mikhail Shishkin © Yvonne Böhler)
read more

Cry for life

Monday 20 May, 2011

Algeria's youth: Frustrated, isolated and in the stranglehold of clandestine political structures. Young Algerians are rebelling against being locked in traditional political and social structures, but have no chance of a national uprising like that in Tunisia, says Algerian author Boualem Sansal. An interview with Reiner Wandler.
read more

Witness to intellectual suicide

Tuesday 3 May, 2011

TeaserPicOn what would have been Romanian philosopher E.M. Cioran's 100th birthday, Suhrkamp has published a volume of his essays from the 1930s, "Über Deutschland". Effervescing with enthusiasm for Hitler and fascist ideas, they cast a dark shadow over his later writing. Fritz Raddatz wishes he'd never had to read such abominations and bids a former companion a bitter farewell. Photo: E.M. Cioran © Surhrkamp Verlag
read more

RIP Andre Müller

Wednesday 13 April, 2011

TeaserPicAndre Müller Germany's most insightful and most feared interviewer is dead. Elfriede Jelinek said of him in her obituary: "Andre Müller goes all the way into people and then he makes them into language, and only then do they become themselves." Read his interviews with Ingmar Bergman and Hitler's sculptor Arno Breker in English. Photo courtesy Bibliothek der Provinz
read more

A country on the edge of time

Monday 4 April, 2011

TeaserPicSerbia was the country in focus at this year's Leipzig Book Fair – its extensive literature seems to be bound up in the straitjacket of politics. Serbia is having a hard time with Europe, and Europe is having a hard time with Serbia. Although there are signs of a softening stance, the country is still locked up in the self-imposed nationalist isolation into which it manoeuvred itself as the aggressor in the Yugoslavian war of secession. A visit there inspires mixed feelings. By Jörg Plath
Photo: Sreten Ugricic
read more