I like this Erich Kuby. He has a very personal touch in everything he writes, being at the same time accurate and neat in his way of investigating overI like this Erich Kuby. He has a very personal touch in everything he writes, being at the same time accurate and neat in his way of investigating over his homecountry.
One may find Kuby's books not really entertaining and as a matter of fact these reportages got aged very quickly, talking about an apparently long time forgotten divided Germany. And yet I appreciate digging into this forty years old German dust with the help of such a great journalist....more
Falada was a talking horse appearing in The Goose-Girl a fairytale written by the Grimm brothers.
When Herr Rudolf Wilhelm Friedrich Ditzen took the noFalada was a talking horse appearing in The Goose-Girl a fairytale written by the Grimm brothers.
When Herr Rudolf Wilhelm Friedrich Ditzen took the nom-de-plume of Hans Fallada, borrowing the first name from another Grimm's fairytale he was far from being the kind of person you would like your children to spend time with. Claimed insane after having killed a friend in a duel when he was barely 18 years old and for that reason a notorious guest of several mental institutions, he was also addicted to morphine and an alcoholic.
The young troubled Mr Ditzen was an outcast. He spent his time working in the farm fields mostly for financing his drug and drinking habits and trying to compose some poetry while at the sanatorium but without really managing to make it. And yet, somehow, Ditzen/Fallada was on his way to become one of the most successful German writers of his generation portraying scenes of all but idyllic German life in the difficult years of the Great Depression and the Mark super-inflation.
Despite being labeled as an undesirable author by the rising Nazis, Fallada managed to get by during World War II refusing to leave Germany although constantly intimidated by Goebbels & company who understood his talent and wanted to put it at the service of the Third Reich.
The disturbing beauty and way too underrated importance of "Jeder stirbt für sich allein" (appropriately translated into "Every Man Dies Alone" in the US but becoming a milder "Alone in Berlin" for the British edition of the book) is that Fallada wrote this book at the very end of his short life. He died before the book got published perhaps not having the time for editing it as he would have liked to. And yet, "Alone in Berlin" stands out as one of the most powerful last wills in literature around.
Fallada took inspiration from the real story of a couple of Germans who decided to write hundreds of anti-Hitler postcards during the last years of the regime, leaving them in public places hoping to get a reaction against the Nazis. Otto and Elise Hampel were not cultured people and eventually failed in their goal to stir the Berlinese people against the Third Reich being discovered and executed, but the strength of their rebellion is nonetheless a great one.
Fallada was given the Hampels file by a friend of his and decided to make a novel out of that forgotten little example of resistance to the Nazi atrocities. And what the author managed to accomplish is an extraordinary portrait of everyday's life in Berlin in the 1940s with an impressing cast of characters and a spy-story plot which reminded me of Graham Greene.
But, if possible, Fallada aimed higher here than Greene did. And you know what? He got there. Let's keep in mind and never forget that this book was written in 1947, when all the awful memories were fresh and actually the Berlin pictured here was still mostly raised to the ground. 1947 is the very same year in which pen-named Hans Fallada died.
'Alone in Berlin' is a novel where the triumph belongs to the apparent banality of good. This book demonstrates how it is not only the most-educated people fighting against a regime, but also those who have personal motivations and strong ideals and a tenacious will to win over evil. ...more
This is an interesting example of a novel subverting all the guidelines of a crime-fiction story.
Kirst creates the convincing frame of Wahlheim (literThis is an interesting example of a novel subverting all the guidelines of a crime-fiction story.
Kirst creates the convincing frame of Wahlheim (literally and not casually "home of the election" if my poor German is not wrong) an ideal small town of post WWII Germany, being pretty much untouched by the conflict. No destructions, no starvation there: just a placid daily life where nothing special happens leading the local reporter to invent most of the news. Wahlheim is an island with people meeting each other at the local inn either for having a beer, making business or talking about politics while being seduced by the manager.
The inhabitants of Wahlheim use to express the truth or at least they express what and who they like or dislike without any double meaning behind. They are all far from sophistication, unaware of diversity, tied to their tiny cosy clod. We know these people by family name rather than first name, as in the episodes of the old Tv serie "Oberinspektor Derrick". Even old time friends call each other by surname and to me this sounds very German.
When Muntsch comes back to town after having spent three years in prison for beating the town's only tycoon, Wahlheim people can smell how their tranquillity is going to cease. Their prejudices toward Muntsch are mostly wrong, but as a matter of fact Wallheim is going to have some actual news very soon.
What I appreciated more in this novel is the ability of Kirst in picturing the backstage of local politic debates and decisions in some unimportant corner of Germany in the 1950s. There were former Nazi supporters are trying to cover their frustrated nostalgia by being enthusiastic patriots while the Church is still losing its appeal and the priest is no opinion leader at all. In all this scenario it's easy to glorify a man calling him "a great poet" in order to reach a political goal or disguising a suicide as a wicked murder.
Of course Hans Hellmut Kirst is not Thomas Mann neither Heinrich Boell, nevertheless this nice story would deserve to be performed on a stage....more
One hundred short stories with a very high average level. The short format of these miniatures helps. In this case, being concise avoiding digressionsOne hundred short stories with a very high average level. The short format of these miniatures helps. In this case, being concise avoiding digressions makes Grass' way of writing even better.
Each narration you will find here is related to one of the years between 1900 and 2000. Different point of views and many interesting perspectives on the main events happened in Germany and worldwide in the last century.
The author is able to put himself in the shoes of schoolboys, old women, sport reporters, politicians, soldiers, tycoons, professors and so on in many cases resuscitating famous characters or giving new life and speech to those common people who not only made history but lived their personal stories in that frame.
This book is an excellent idea that just Günter Grass could have turned from theory into reality thanks to his encyclopedic knowledge and dedication. I am glad he did it....more
A very interesting collection of some articles, reviews and short essays published by the sharp minded German journalist during his career.
From postA very interesting collection of some articles, reviews and short essays published by the sharp minded German journalist during his career.
From post World War II Germany to the rise of Franz Joseph Strauss in Bavaria. From Western Germany in the 1950s shown in technicolor by the American magazine "Life" to an interesting analysis of the Nazi phenomenon seen as the result of an endemic national passiveness.
Kuby had a very pessimistic view of the German society rising once again from its ashes and eventually many things went better than his forecasts. Yet, I really appreciated his writing style and sublime unenchanted bitter irony. ...more
This book is basically built around one peak moment: the young protagonist meeting Adolf Hitler in the Reich Chancellery bunker during the dark days oThis book is basically built around one peak moment: the young protagonist meeting Adolf Hitler in the Reich Chancellery bunker during the dark days of the so called Battle of Berlin. One may say I'm underrating the importance of "The Bonfire of Berlin" while writing this, but actually I do think this is the main reason that led editors to publish this book.
Don't take me wrong. I was really interested in this story and particularly happy when I found it midprice. Then I literally devoured the 240 pages wrote by Helga Schneider. Yet sometimes quickness in reading is not to take as a good signal. I guess how most of the times people devour bestsellers, rather than brilliant and insightful books just to read what happens next. As for me, I read the "Da Vinci Code" in a single afternoon but I do think it's crap. Personally a slow reading is more involving and makes me wonder more about story, plot, characters and the message behind a book.
What disappointed me in "The Bonfire of Berlin" has very much to do with both: style used by Helga Schneider and her attempt to write a self-biographical book based on her childhood experiences.
Chapter One: style. I didn't understand why Schneider switches from present to a literary past tense (at least in the Italian edition) from chapter to chapter and even inside the same chapter without a logic. I mean it's not about flashbacks or reminiscences of the young Helga, it's just random. Moreover, my impression is that the whole book has been written in one week or something, without caring that much of a re-reading process. I reckon how this aspect may be a quality, looking like a spontaneous need of narrating a story long time kept by the author, but I didn't appreciated it as maybe someone else did. Schneider language is very direct but oozes too much with victimism: basically young Helga is the only good and honest person around the collapsing Berlin, while everyone else is, depending on circumstances, selfish, arrogant, spoilt (her little brother, portrayed as a blond little creep) or double-dealing. I found this vision a little bit disturbing.
Chapter Two: autobiography One may wonder how is possible that 50 years later, Schneider is able to recall what she felt as a seven years old girl, reconstructing whole dialogues and situations with such accuracy. She never mentions about having a diary while living that awful experience and even if she tries to explain this precision with frequent references towards the end of the book to the importance of "looking around for remembering it all" I have some doubts about it. But I guess how this "power of memory" is a common problem while talking about autobiographic novels.
Given this, there are still many good reasons for reading this book, especially if you're interested in a different account of the final days of Germany in World War II seen (and felt) from the side of the defenceless population. But "The Bonfire of Berlin" is still very far from perfection. ...more
When I was a child my parents used to punish me for my bad actions in their own way: I often had the prohibition of reading for a week. Of course I waWhen I was a child my parents used to punish me for my bad actions in their own way: I often had the prohibition of reading for a week. Of course I wasn't so nerd at that time and together with reading there could be no tv, no bmx rides with friends, no late night awake and all sorts of "normal" don'ts. But the worst one was definitely the "no reading week".
Later in my teenage years, I remember how my mum was very glad about my reading activity, but not particularly interested in influencing that favourite pastime of mine with her tips. As far as I remember the only exception was "Narcissus and Goldmund".
"Mum, I read "Candide". How nice it was!" "Good for you. But you should rather read Narcissus and Goldmund".
"Mum, "The Buddenbrooks" is very interesting. What a surprise!" "Very well. Yet, you would appreciate more "Narcissus and Goldmund".
"Mum, I have to admit it: "Rosshalde" is kind of interesting". "Yes. But that's nothing compared to "Narcissus and Goldmund": you might read it!".
"Mum, this "Elective affinities" is a masterpiece of romanticism". "I know, but why don't you read "Narcissus and Goldmund?" You must do it!"
Ok, I resisted for many years. When I was younger I never liked when people were forcing me to read anything. At school, in family. Then came my late twenties and I finally capitulated: I took "Narcissus and Goldmund" in my hands. Albeit the awful, terrifying front cover graphic chosen by the Italian editor (think about the name "Hesse" wrote in the same style, way and colours of the notorious "Esso" logo on a grey background...) I decided to leaf through the book pages.
I was really surprised. After managing to win over the first "philosophical" part of the novel, that I found a bit too slow, I discovered a surprisingly libertine book. Not that bad, of course, but exactly the opposite I would have expected as a tip from my mum.
Eventually "Narcissus and Goldmund" was an involving reading. Although I think that sometimes Hesse stumbles on the thin line between allegory and parody, this book worths a reading. I like the historical-yet-undetermined contest of the book even if the Goldmund character doesn't look that realistic to me. The way Goldmund walks around the world is very "Candidesque" and picaresque and I do like this sort of mood.
At the same time, Herman Hesse is more accurate and, in my opinion, does a better job in picturing Narcissus, who at least behaves as a man in his adulthood rather than a whimsical, naive boy as Goldmund stays for the whole book without having a real evolution despite all the life (and sexual) experiences he had. I know this won't be appreciated by those who consider this book formative, but the same comeback of Goldmund to the monastery where he spent his earlier pious years looks more like a defeat than as an inner development of him.
Now I just wonder if my mum wished to make a Narcissus or a Goldmund out of me. Frankly I'm a bit scared to ask her. ...more