Literature and War Readalong May 31 2013: All That I Am by Anna Funder

All That I AM

When I first heard of Anna Funder’s novel All That I Am  I wanted to start reading it right away as it sounded so appealing. The novel is inspired by – or based on – the tragic life of German-Jewish left-wing playwright Ernst Toller. Some have termed the book “faction” but judging from what I read about it, Funder took a lot of liberties, which makes the term “fiction” more appropriate in the  end. All That I Am is Funder’s first novel but she had a huge publishing success with her book Stasiland: Stories From Behind the Berlin Wall.

The book starts in 1933 with Hitler’s rise to power and tells the story of four young German exiles who try to raise awareness in the UK for the threat the new German government poses. Toller is one of them. In 1933 he lost his citizenship, left Berlin and went to live in London.

Here are the first sentences

When Hitler came to power I was in the bath. Our apartment was on the Schiffbauerdamm near the river, right in the middle of Berlin. From its windows we could see the dome of the parliament building. The wireless in the living room was turned up loud so Hans could hear it in the kitchen, but all that drifted down to me were waves of happy cheering, like a football match. It was Monday afternoon.


The discussion starts on Friday, 31 May 2013.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2013, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.

26 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong May 31 2013: All That I Am by Anna Funder

    • I recommended Transit a while back although I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but I’ve read other books by Anna Seghers. I thought it wasn’t out yet in English.
      It’s a very importnat book and tells of some sad real stories of writers like Ernst Weiss. I need to finally read it.
      I guess we will have another German Lit Month. Not sure but pretty sure.

  1. This looks like an interesting book, Caroline! Will look forward to reading your thoughts on it. Happy reading! The first passage from the book, especially, the first sentence is quite interesting, simple and powerful at the same time.

    • I thought so too. I’m looking forward to reading it. I think Tony reviewed it and liked it well enough. Since he’s very critical, that’s a good sign. 🙂

  2. I had never heard to Ernst Toller but of course i have great admiration for anyone who took on the NAZIs so early in the game.

    I look forward to reading your comments on this one.

    • He was certainly quick and realized very early that that was not the way things should go but the he was a communist and they were not welcome. Plus he was Jewish. In anycase I didn’t know him either or I would have realized it’s based on a real person.

    • I think it should be good and interesting as well.
      Many artists fled but only a few were that active abroad. I’m in the mood to read German literature as well at them moment.

  3. This book has received wonderful reviews, so I am excited to read it. Though many of the reviewers seem unsure how to classify the story. Is it a novel? Is it non-fiction? It seems to skate a fine line between both. There is a proliferation of these types of stories: using the true life story of a person but filling in missing details with the author’s surmising. Because honestly the author can’t know what the person was thinking / feeling at a given moment unless there is a diary account or he/she told someone specifically.
    For example, “A Good Hard Look” is about the American Southern writer Flannery O’Connor and then fictionalizes a story around her life in Georgia. Most of the events didn’t happen and the book is classified as fiction, but the main character was a real person and had many of the same attributes, so the book does seem to exist in a gray area.

    • Will you read along? That would be great.
      I saw it called faction somewhere and guess that’s what it is. A lot was invented but the major events happened. I think it will be a very interesting book. I’ve just read a German novel done in a similar way, I like that a lot.

  4. I’m really looking forward to reading this, too! I have it by my bedside–as well as the Seghers which is on my list of books for this month. I wouldn’t mind reading Stasiland at some point as well–have you read it already?

    • I’m looking forward as well, just finishing something else and then I’ll start it.
      No, I haven’t read Stasiland but Tony reviewed it. I think he did like it.

  5. I’d really hoped to join in, but I’ve been an idiot and booked myself up for too much, right up until the end of June. But it’s a book I hope to read one day, so I’ll be interested to see how the discussion goes.

    • Oh, great, I’ll be collecting reviews and will visit once I’ve finished the book and posted my review.
      I can’t say much, I’ve only read 30 pages so far.

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