Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

A colleague at work asked me what I was reading last week. “I’m reading a novel about Russian polar bears written by a Japanese woman who lives in Berlin and writes in German.” “Oh.” You’ve probably never heard of this book, either. I found Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky, on the German shelves of the translated literature … Continue reading Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by Paul Schreber

Memoirs of My Nervous Illness was an important work in the development of modern psychiatry.  Sigmund Freud based parts of his study of psychoanalysis on the book, though he never met Mr. Schreber.  Mr. Schreber was a judge in late 19th century Dresden–married with no children.  He had three bouts of “nervous illness,” each landing him in an asylum.   Eventually, he became well enough to … Continue reading Memoirs of My Nervous Illness by Paul Schreber

The Duel by Heinrich Von Kleist

This is the first of Melville House’s “Duel” series to feature a serious duel.  The others were life or death situations, but they were part of an overall comic or satirical structure that made fun of dueling or at least critiqued it. In Heinrich Von Kleist’s novel, translated by Annie Janusch, the duel is taken seriously by all involved, author included. Set in the late … Continue reading The Duel by Heinrich Von Kleist

Come Sweet Death by Wolf Haas

I enjoyed the first two Simon Brenner novels, I’m sure of it.  I remember loving the way they were narrated–a third person narrator who referred to himself in the first person, making little cracks about the characters as the plot went along. They were good books. The narrator was funny. So what happened this time around. Come Sweet Death has Simon Brenner still trying to get … Continue reading Come Sweet Death by Wolf Haas

Berlin Now: The City After the Wall by Peter Schneider

I confess–I’m secretly pleased with myself for having a book that counts towards Non-fiction November and German Literature Month at the same time. Good for me.  😉 Peter Schneider’s 2014 survey of Berlin life, translated by Sophie Schlondorff, is a perfect read for anyone who is interested in Berlin or anyone who already loves the place. C.J. and I have been there twice; we’re big … Continue reading Berlin Now: The City After the Wall by Peter Schneider

Suspicion by Friedrich Durrenmatt translated by Joel Agee

Suspicion is the second of two novels featured in The Inspector Barlach Mysteries by Friedrich Durrenmatt published by The University of Chicago Press.  Getting your hands on a copy probably won’t be easy, but it will be worth the effort.  Both feature cynical, ailing Inspector Barlach, diagnosed with a terminal illness in The Judge and His Hangman, with just a few months left to live … Continue reading Suspicion by Friedrich Durrenmatt translated by Joel Agee

The Drinker by Hans Fallada

Hans Fallada, a German author who survived World War II by only a few years, wrote The Drinker while imprisoned in a German insane asylum following a drunken altercation with his wife that ended in gunfire. (No one was injured.)  While in the asylum, Fallada agreed to write an anti-semitic novel based on a court case about corrupt Jewish financiers in the 1920’s. However, instead … Continue reading The Drinker by Hans Fallada

Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck

Two things stand out for me from reading Jenny Erpenbeck’s wonderful novel Visitation. The first is a piece of German tax law from the Nazi era.  If you purchased property or other goods from a Jewish person who was being relocated and made a profit greater than what you would have made from the same transaction with a non-Jewish person, then you had to pay a … Continue reading Visitation by Jenny Erpenbeck

Cassandra by Christa Wolfe

Cassandra has always struck me as the most tragic figure in the story of the Trojan War. Gifted with prophecy, she could see the future, she knew what would happen, but no one would believe her. It’s one thing to be doomed; it’s another to know you are doomed. German author Christa Wolf retells the story of the Trojan War from Cassandra’s point of view … Continue reading Cassandra by Christa Wolfe

The Judge and the Hangman by Friedrich Durrenmatt

It is my personal belief that a truly great detective novel always opens with the discovery of a body. Friedrich Durrenmatt’s novella The Judge and the Hangman does just that. The body of a police inspector has been found in a car parked on a lonely road. The village police man who found it, drove the car into down, the body still in the passenger … Continue reading The Judge and the Hangman by Friedrich Durrenmatt

In Times of Fading Light by Eugen Ruge translated from the German by Anthea Bell

Eugen Ruge’s novel In Times of Fading Light is a generational saga of a failed state, the story of one how one family lived through the lifespan of the German Democratic Republich (GDR) or East Germany as it’s known in the west. It’s an interesting if not quite compelling story. Narratively the novel is something of a jumble, which any readers may find  a challenge. The book … Continue reading In Times of Fading Light by Eugen Ruge translated from the German by Anthea Bell

Baader-Meinhoff: The Inside Story of the R.A.F. by Stefan Aust

Baader-Meinhoff: The Inside Story of the R.A.F., Stefan Aust’s book about the Red Army Faction a terrorist group active in West Germany during the 1970’s, offers an interesting counterpoint to John Berger’s  From A to X.   While Mr. Berger’s novel asks readers to sympathize with a romantic vision of his characters, Mr. Aust’s non-fiction account of an actual terrorist organization makes sympathy for those involved nearly impossible.Andreas … Continue reading Baader-Meinhoff: The Inside Story of the R.A.F. by Stefan Aust