The controversy takes a cursory glance at the book and misses the subtext. Grass was not a hypocrite, for the man demanding and expecting honesty from fellow men did not carry himself on a high horse. This book shows, in fact, that he was rather a man who had spent the better part of his life struggling with remorse for not having done just that – for not having had the courage to speak up. For not asking, “Why?” The narrator of a book is ideally a sympathetic character. This, Grass is not. Yet, it is perfectly possible to look past that for the book has a lot to offer.
The various characters of his numerous books start taking shape now, inspiration flowing in from his war memories, and we finally begin to learn a little something about Günter Grass, the writer. He used to stand when he wrote! What a weirdly inconsequential thing to discover, yet it has stuck, maybe because it is so random – it was a habit he picked up as a sculptor, he wrote at his stand-up desk. He was left-handed, and talks as though he is constantly aware of his left-handedness; and of course he is, so am I. (Aren’t right-handers constantly aware of their right-handedness? Must be, because so many show surprise when I casually raise my left hand to do something.) He also dwells on his transformation from a total non-smoker who’d use cigarettes as a favourite barter in his prison days to the young artist who smoked for careful pretense until it became an incorrigible habit.
The only other proper retelling of a myth I have read is Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis and these two have one thing in common: the voice of a woman. But that’s as far as the similarities go. Kassandra is about oppression, and Christa seems to have drawn heavily from her own experiences. The book was written in 1984, and when set in historical context, it is easy to relate the writer’s own experience of the futile and essentially patriarchal nature of war with Cassandra’s guilt about the part she played, if in spite of herself, in Troy’s self-destruction. Kassandra is the kind of book that is written solely to make a point. While I appreciate the allegory, the story is often weighed down by gross exaggerations and one dimensional characters; there’s a lot to learn, or be fascinated by even; I’m probably going to spend a long time looking things up, picking out allusions and trying to draw parallels. But the book offers little entertainment. That and the fact that the winding prose that I adored in Unter den Linden seems a bit confusing and twisted in Kassandra were the two minor irritations I had with the book. Other than that, Kassandra is a must read. I wanted to read the book in English, and I probably will, if only to reconfirm what I’ve understood!
If not anything else, these books were a fabulous kick-start to the German Literature Month 2013, hosted by Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy over at Lizzy’s Literary Life. The book I plan to read next is lighter content-wise, but also a thriller: Erebos by Ursula Poznanski. I have a few other reads lined up, but I’m not planning so far ahead!
(Excuse the typos, if any; I have struggled through two German books in just one day, which is far more than I am used to, having stubbornly refused the luxury of a dictionary. I’m now exhausted and in no mood to re-read and edit this post!)
Als ich die Tintenwelt-Trilogie gelesen habe, war ich von Funkes Schreibstil total begeistert. Damals las ich aber wenig Deutsch. Die war die erste deutsche Buchreihe, die ich gelesen und noch wichtiger, verstanden habe. Drachenreiter war zwar auch eine fantasievolle Geschichte, aber das Buch war mir manchmal ein bisschen langweilig. Es war viel größer als ich erwartet habe. Ich habe es mir nicht vorgestellt, dass ich einen ganzen Monat bräuchte, das Buch zu Ende zu lesen. Die Handlung ist trotzdem schnell in Fahrt gekommen, was ich toll gefunden habe.
Hier ist die Zusammenfassung aus Amazon: Eine abenteuerliche Reise liegt vor Lung, dem silbernen
Drachen, und seinen Begleitern, dem Koboldmädchen Schwefelfell und dem
Waisenjungen Ben. Sie sind auf der Suche nach einem sicheren Ort für Lungs
Artgenossen, für die es in der Menschenwelt keinen Platz mehr zu geben scheint.
Lung setzt seine ganze Hoffnung auf den sagenumwobenen “Saum des
Himmels”. Dort, irgendwo zwischen den Gipfeln des Himalaya versteckt, soll
die ursprüngliche Heimat der Drachen liegen. Noch ahnen die drei jedoch nicht,
dass es etwas viel Bedrohlicheres als die Menschen gibt – Nesselbrand den
Goldenen, das gefährlichste Drachen jagende Ungeheuer, das die Welt je gesehen
hat. Und er ist ihnen auch schon auf der Spur …
Schwefelfell war sehr niedlich und Lung gefiel mir auch. Da es ein Kinderbuch war, war es ganz spannend. Es gab eine Menge von Details über die vielen seltsamen Fabelwesen. Zusammen mit dem Abenteuer, erzählte das Buch von der ungewöhnlichen Freundschaft zwischen Schwefelfell, Lung und Ben. Die Autorin schrieb auch vieles über den Menschen und versuchte, mit einer Moral zu enden. Es hätte aber mehr über die Gefühle und Gedanken von den Drachen, Zwergen und anderen Wesen sein können, um die Geschichte interessanter zu machen. Die Charaktere waren einfach zu flach. Und ich stimme dazu gar nicht zu, dass Kinder Geschichten mit eindimensionalen Charakteren besser finden. (Habt ihr nicht Harry Potter gelesen? Hauselfen sind doch Menschen.)
Wenn ihr normalerweise Fantasy nicht lest, ist Drachenreiter perfekt für euch! Ich glaube, dieses Buch eignet sich am besten für Sprachlerner, weil es sich leicht und flüssig liest.
Okay, I think, that’s enough German for this blog. If you want German book recommendations, check out this site. I’m also halfway done with Hiob (Job) by Joseph Roth (who, by the way, is one of my favourite German language writers – he’s Austrian.) It’s a really good book, though I’m certain it’s going to be November, by the time I finish it.
Anyway: Spot any mistakes? Let me know.
Viel Spaß beim Lesen!
tries to communicate always sounds foolish… Knowledge can be communicated but
not wisdom. One can find it, live it, be fortified by it, do wonders through
it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.
his family for a contemplative life, then, restless, discards it for one of the
flesh. He conceives a son, but bored and sickened by lust and greed, moves on
again. Near despair, Siddhartha comes to a river where he hears a unique sound.
This sound signals the true beginning of his life – the beginning of
suffering, rejection, peace, and, finally, wisdom.
However, I don’t see myself re-reading the book, I’m unsure whether I’ll like it the second time around, with the element of surprise no longer present. It’s short and very moving, but neither of these things suits a re-read. According to me, this book is an amazing one-time-only read, but maybe that’s just me.
It was a bit difficult for me to get through the German, perhaps the language is a bit stilted (is it?) Some of it just seemed wrong to me and since I don’t think it’s wise to trust myself on that, I don’t know why language was difficult. It helped that it is such a small book. I found my copy at a book sale and it’s old and has yellowed pages and these little insightful notes in the margins (I don’t really like writing in books, though) and it smells great!
- The Train Was on Time by Heinrich Böll
- The Clown by Heinrich Böll
It is Week III of the German Literature Month (hosted by Caroline @ Beauty is a Sleeping Cat and Lizzy @ Lizzy’s Literary Life.) I read Hotel Savoy in less than a couple of days – and since I read it in German, that is quite an achievement for me. The book is only a little more than a hundred pages, though. It is a quick and quite pleasant read.