Meike's Reviews > Carnival

Carnival by Philipp Winkler
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bookshelves: germany, 2020-read

You just have to love Winkler for telling stories from social spheres that are usually overlooked in literature, and for his keen ability to portray them faithfully and give his characters dignity and plasticity. After his remarkable debut Hooligan: A Novel about, you guessed it, hooligan culture in Hannover, he is now evoking the spirit of the travelling artists and misfits of funfairs. In the text, we follow a troupe of funfair workers and learn about their lifestyle and worldviews. And while Winkler does illustrate the brutal, merciless life on the road and the often tragic destinies of his protagonists, he also elevates them to heroes of Greek proportions: The whole text is written as a chant in a "we"-form, reminiscent of a Greek choir, explaining the meaning and mores or carny culture in a distinct sociolect - and this makes for an absorbing and fascinating language experiment. Summoning the travelling folk of showmen, carousel workers, saleswomen at candy stalls, shooting galleries, animal trainers, and freaks, he juxtaposes the glamorously downtrodden lives of the people working at the funfair with the more conservative lifestyle of the visitors who want to experience a few hours of careless diversion. As Winkler mixes sharp obersvations with nostalgia, the whole feel of the text is romantic, paying tribute to a vanishing phenomenon, threatened by digital forms of entertainment.

Winkler told me that he is currently working on his next novel, and that he took a break for this shorter work which is part of a series that his publisher Aufbau has created to celebrate its 75-year-anniversary - Winkler was happy to take the opportunity to write about the culture of funfairs, a subject he is intrigued by. While he was inspired by the American carny culture and its particular language (Winkler is a huge fan of Southern Gothic), "Carnival" intentionally doesn't reveal where it is situated to point to the larger picture. Btw: Winkler is not alone with his fascination for this rough world, as Clemens Meyer, the other German specialist for writing about misfits, the working class and underdogs, even made a documentary about the "Kirmes" (carnival):

This might be a minor work between two novels, but Winkler is a fascinating, highly talented writer who constantly tries out new approaches, and "Carnival" is another example of this. If you want to learn more about the book, "Hooligan" and his work as a writer, you can stream our conversation on the Papierstau Podcast page and via the streaming service of your choice.
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Reading Progress

April 22, 2020 – Shelved
April 22, 2020 – Shelved as: to-read
April 22, 2020 – Shelved as: germany
May 13, 2020 – Started Reading
May 14, 2020 – Shelved as: 2020-read
May 14, 2020 – Finished Reading

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