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3.97  ·  Rating details ·  6,931 ratings  ·  842 reviews
From the internationally best-selling author of You Should Have Left, Measuring the World, and F, a transfixing retelling of the German myth of Tyll Ulenspiegel: a story about the devastation of war and a beguiling artist's decision never to die

Daniel Kehlmann masterfully weaves the fates of many historical figures into this enchanting work of magical realism and adventure
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published February 11th 2020 by Pantheon Books (first published October 15th 2017)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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Now on the International Booker Prize Shortlist!

Daniel Kehlmann's translated non-linear novel is a skilfully woven blend of folklore, fantasy and European historical fiction where the medieval legend of folklore, Tyll, the spirit of rebellion, mocking, a confidence trickster and jester is transplanted three centuries later into the 17th century, travelling through the episodically portrayed horrors and devastation of the Thirty Years War, the Holy Roman Empire, and the court of Friedrich, the Wi
Feb 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2020

I find it extremely difficult to review this book for many reasons but mainly because I had a hard time deciding how to rate it. I went from 3 stars to 5 only to get back again. I settled to 4 because in the end I appreciate what the author did with this novel.

Before I read Tyll I was not familiar with the apparently famous author. I was introduced to him by Jonathan, my GR friend, and I have to thank him.

Tyll is a picaresque novel about th
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Ever since I saw the German edition of this novel and guessed what it may depict, I have wanted to read the magical story of Tyll Ulenspiegel.
The main reason why this book has been on my radar and I have been waiting for the translation is that I have been interested in the Thirty Years' War ever since I watched a splendid documentary on it and visited some places which still remember that cruel period. The War is shown in soldiers, landscape, cruelty and its nonsense, as any war, and although
Glenn Russell

Here's what author Daniel Kehlmann said when he was two-thirds through writing Tyll: “When Trump won, I was so shocked and worried that for a while I couldn’t write anymore. But then I thought of Tyll’s resilience and his way of making fun of anything. It was revelatory because I’d never had any experience of my own character helping me to finish something or to cope.”

Tyll Ulenspiegel to the rescue, both for a sensitive young novelist in the 21st century and war-torn, ravaged Central Europe duri
Vit Babenco
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ignorance, prejudices, superstitions, obscurantism: all the shades of darkness… Even if there is nothing supernatural in Tyll the novel has a tangible Gothic aura and it is glumly satirical.
“If you want to eat, perform. That’s how it is now. That’s how it will be until you kick the bucket. You belong to the traveling people, no one protects you, and when it rains, you have no roof. No home. No friends but others like you, who will not like you very much, because food is scarce. That is the price
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't like historical novels, so how did I find myself loving this? And I mean LOVING this! Not just the watered down, everyday kind of "loving this coffee or loving that shop". I mean I LOVED it!

First of all, I probably had the most privileged introduction to it that one can possibly get. On a late November Tuesday, I travelled from Northern to Southern Stockholm (which geographically speaking is not a vast journey, but can turn into an adventure nevertheless!) in the pitch darkness of a po
Tyll is the story of Tyll Ulenspiegel, a wanderer/prankster/jester, and his peripatetic adventures across what we now call Europe, during the Thirty Years’ War.

This is an exuberant and unusual piece of historical fiction, an omnium-gatherum of legendary figures, real historical personages and events, mysticism, scholarship, high diplomacy & the carving up of realms, and the dismal daily grind of the peasantry.

With a Pulp Fiction-style jumbled timeline and a winking irreverence, Tyll wears it
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-read, germany
Now Shortlisted for the International Booker Prize 2020
The most widely translated author writing in German today writes a book circling around the most famous German trickster: Every child around here grows up with the classic tales of Tyll Ulenspiegel (also: Till Eulenspiegel) which go back to Middle Low German folklore. But while the "original" Tyll was supposedly born around 1300 and travelled the Holy Roman Empire as a vagrant and provocateur, Kehlmann transports his Tyll into the time of th
What an original idea - to write a book of historical fiction (tales set in the early 17th century, detailing life in Europe during the Thirty Years' War) using a fictional, mystical character as 'host', or circus ringleader.

Even though my knowledge of the Thirty Years' War was pretty much non-existent prior to my reading Tyll (which is shameful, truly, considering it's "one of the most destructive conflicts in human history" -- just take a quick look at what Wikipedia has to say about it), thi
lark benobi
Tyll is so entertaining that I struggled at first to understand just how deep it is. I'm not sure what it says about contemporary literature, or about me, that I needed to consciously banish my cynical mistrust of any book that is so delightful to read.

As I read the novel I thought of Falstaff, Shakespeare's comic-yet-deep repeating character. The character who most reminded me of Falstaff is played by a donkey, a character who appears in many scenes, sometimes for comic value and sometimes for
Tyll Ulenspiegel, prankster of German folklore, appears in a series of scenes, back and forth in time through the Thirty Years War. But what is this: a novel or linked short stories? Why is the book presented as if it's about him, when he doesn't appear on that many of its pages? What is he in this version? Man or supernatural or both; travelling entertainer rising for a while to court jester; trickster anti-hero; symbol of the hidden agents of historical causation - the butterflies flapping the ...more
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shortlisted for the Booker International Prize 2020

Shortlisted for the Booker International Prize 2020

Note that this review was originally written in March, after my first reading. My book group is now part of a Reading Agency project which has allocated us this book, and I have been skim-reading and making notes to refresh my memory for our discussion.

My only previous experience of Kehlmann was Measuring the World, which I read too long ago to remember clearly. This one is a very different sor
(German version below)
24/25 (96%) 5 stars.
Daniel Kehlmann has written a novel that is great in every aspect possible. Big themes, big personalities and last but not least very big stories. All this is told with such devotion and affection in a way only a few writers can.

The author delivers an impressive painting of the time, filled with various characters that tell Eulenspiegel's story. Tyll himself, although he is the main character, almost never tells from his perspective - instead we always
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Till is back!

Daniel Kehlmann resurrected the jester and imposter from his grave and placed him right in the middle of the Thirty Years War, some 350 years after his burial. Now he spells his name Tyll, but that’s not important. His basic character hasn’t changed much. He is still juggling with balls and still walking the tightrope, looking at people from above, having no respect for anyone, except for himself, basically. And perhaps for Nele, his “sister” (as they want us to believe), the two of
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
I was delighted with a group of Goodreads friends to be selected by the Reading Agency to read this book as part of their shadowing of the International Booker Shortlist. We will meet in June as a group to discuss the book.

Overall this in my view by far the most enjoyable on the shortlist, but not without its flaws.

It reminded me a lot of Neal Stephenson's wonderful Baroque Trilogy - a lot more focused and tightly written than Stephenson, but lacking Stephenson's sheer imagination and hugely d
Katia N
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve decided to read this book after finishing The Thirty Years War. This was also nominated for this year Booker International.

Maybe unusually, but I knew about Tyll Ulenspiegel since my school days. Bizarrely, the legends about him were included in our school’s program of foreign literature. We’ve studied an extract from The Legend of the Glorious Adventures of Tyl Ulenspiegel in the Land of Flanders & Elsewhere. Though it is fair to say i do not remember much from those days. This novel was
Here is a story about the Thirty Years’ War AND the legendary medieval trickster Tyll Ulenspiegel. According to German legends he played pranks and naughty tricks on tradespeople and innkeepers. He is said to have died of the plague in 1350. In this novel, he has not died; his goal in life, he tells us, is to live, to live on and on forever and to live life to the fullest, and so now, during the Thirty Years’ War that took place from 1618-1648, he is still living, pulling his jokes, telling stor ...more
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 STARS for a totally unique book!!

In this book, Daniel Kellmann masterfully weaves folklore, fantasy and historical fiction together.

I knew absolutely nothing of the Thirty Years War that took place in Central Europe from 1618-1648. As typical of most wars it occurred in the name of religion-Catholicism vs Protestantism. 8 million people died because of the war through battles and famine.

Tyll is our conduit through this war. We meet him as a child who loves to entertain. This was a time of Jesu
Jonathan Pool
Feb 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: international
*** review added after second read, for Booker international shadow Jury***

Daniel Kehlmann takes the Thirty Years War (1618-48) – a not very obvious setting for a fantasy novel and imbibes the period with a creative mix of fantasy, playfulness, and huge erudition bringing together figures taken from folklore, and some relatively unknown real life characters. This is historical fiction where the fictional element is given full reign via the eponymous Tyll Eulenspiegel. It’s a fabulous and a multi
Clif Hostetler
This is a mostly historical novel that takes place during the Thirty Years' War. It contains scattered vignettes describing life at that time. The events as presented in this book are not given in chronological order. These descriptions are probably fairly accurate accounts of what it's like to live through endless war, however the book does not provide an overview of military movements and tactics.

Therefore any reader of this book with limited knowledge of the Thirty Years’ War will come away
Apr 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: austrian
I'm up on the tightrope, one side's hate and one is hope. - Leon Russell

And so Daniel Kehlmann has invented - re-invented, really - this wonderful title character, not as prankster but as court jester. The events are set in the time of the Thirty Years' War but with little disguise that Kehlmann wants us to look in the distant mirror. Would that we had a court jester now, someone whose job - whose duty! - is to ridicule the king. I don't mean a comedienne or a late-night talk show host; I don't
Mar 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
High grade historical fiction. Kehlmann has transported Tyll Ulenspiegel of Germanic folklore to the time of the Thirty Years War and utilizes his story to bring to life a truly world-altering conflict. Many of the key players in this war, particularly Elizabeth Stuart, aka The Winter Queen, aka Little Liz, have been largely forgotten today. Kehlmann has brought them back to life with wit, bloodshed, and even a little bit of magic. Great character building and some really impressive scene settin ...more
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
With apologies that this is now SO long, I re-wrote my review after a second reading. You don't have to read either. You certainly don't need to read both.

I read this book twice in the period of a couple of months. My first reading was somewhat hurried: it was part of my reading of the longlist for the Booker International prize. My second reading was far more considered: a book club of which I am a member was selected to be part of a read along shadowing the main jury and we were given this boo
Why give a 350-page novel the title of a character, when that character appears only to a limited extent in your story? Looking at the reviews of many readers, I’m not the first one to raise that question. Tyll Eulenspiegel is a well-known mythical figure in the Low Countries and Germany; the character figures as a big jester in many folk legends going back to the 14th century. By the Belgian writer Charles De Coster (1827-1879) he was situated in the rebellion of the Netherlands against the Spa ...more

So yes, when I first added Daniel Kehlmann’s 2017 historical fiction/fantasy novel Tyll to my to-read list I really did not expect to all that much enjoy the featured narrative, and namely because I was originally having major issues reconciling myself to the fact that the main character, that Daniel Kehlmann’s Tyll Ulenspiegel (Till Eulenspiegel) had been taken by the author, had been removed by Kehlmann from the late Middle Ages (from the time and place of the
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Were art to redeem man, it could do so only by saving him from the seriousness of life and restoring him to an unexpected boyishness.
José Ortega y Gasset

And let's face it, there's hardly a more serious business in life than war. Protracted, chaotic war, with mercenaries and marauders, with atrocities, pillage, decimation and finally disease to follow the mass movements of people and creep in to finish what famine has weakened.
Thirty years.
Thirty years of war.
Some estimates say that Europe lost
Paul Fulcher
Now shortlisted for the International Booker 2020, the one rather odd inclusion on an otherwise excellent shortlist.

They cannot kill him.  He will also escape.

Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann has been translated under the same title by Ross Benjamin.

I have previously read his Measuring the World, translated by Carol Brown Janeway and Fame: A Novel in Nine Episodes translated by Carol Brown Janeway and George Newbern.

Tyll is based around the eponymous trickster ( b
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, arc, netgalley
Above us Tyll Ulenspiegel turned, slowly and carelessly — not like someone in danger but like someone looking around with curiosity. He stood with his right foot lengthwise on the rope, his left crosswise, his knees slightly bent and his fists on his hips. And all of us, looking up, suddenly understood what lightness was. We understood what life could be like for someone who really did whatever he wanted, who believed in nothing and obeyed no one; we understood what it would be like to be suc
Nov 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is the third piece of fiction I have read by Kehlmann the first being ‘Fame’ (published 2009) and the second being ‘Measuring the World’ (2008).

I really did not like this novel (342 pp). 1.5 stars. 🙁

I think there should have been a disclaimer to this novel: Warning: If you have no idea of what the Thirty Years’ War was about, you may not like this book. Or may not appreciate it, to put it another way. Because I had no clue as to what this war was about (I did not know the context in which
Eric Anderson
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I sometimes find it challenging to read historical novels which concern particular wars or political movements when I don’t have much knowledge of these past events. I like to get fully immersed in a story and it’s hard to do that if I feel like I frequently have to check Wikipedia to understand a historical context or situation. This is why it took me so many years to get into “Wolf Hall”. Daniel Kehlmann’s novel “Tyll” concerns The Thirty Years War, German folklore and other subjects from 1600 ...more
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Daniel Kehlmann is a German-Austrian author.

His novel Measuring the World was translated into more than forty languages. Awards his work has received include the Candide Prize, the Literature Prize of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Heimito von Doderer Literature Award, the Kleist Prize, the WELT Literature Prize, and the Thomas Mann Prize. Kehlmann divides his time between Vienna and Berlin.

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“»Aber weißt du, was besser ist? Noch besser als friedlich sterben?«

»Sag es mir.«

»Nicht sterben, kleine Liz. Das ist viel besser.«”
“A book is a possibility,” he says. “It is always prepared to speak. Even someone who does not understand its language can pass it on to others who can read it very well, so that it may do its wicked work on them. Or he could learn the language, and if there’s no one to teach it to him, he might find a way to teach it to himself. That’s not unheard of either. It can be achieved purely by examining the letters, by counting their frequency, by contemplating their pattern, for the human mind is powerful.” 2 likes
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