Jakob Arjouni: More Beer – Mehr Bier (1987) Kayankaya 2

More Beer

More BeerMehr Bier is the second novel in Jakob Arjouni’s Kayankaya series. It’s set in Frankfurt, Germany. PI Kayankaya is of Turkish origin. While Arjouni was still alive, he was called Germany’s answer to Raymond Chandler. I always found this comparison problematic. Arjouni writes extremely well. I’d say he’s definitely at the literary end of the crime spectrum. His books are hardboiled noir. Kayankaya is a cynical loner who gets beaten up more than once, still, I don’t think he has a lot in common with Marlowe. The differences are quite subtle but they are important. I remeber hating how Kayankaya killed a fly in the first novel. In this one, he beats a rat. Marlowe would never do something like that. I remember noticing after I’ve read three or four books by Chandler that Marlowe has a great fondness for animals. Kayankaya is much more jaded.

More Beer sees Kayankaya investigate the murder of a chemical plant owner. Four eco-terrorists have been charged with the murder, but it seems highly unlikely that they did go that far. Unfortunately,they don’t want to talk. Early on, it becomes obvious that there was a fifth man involved. But who and where is he? The defendants’ lawyer hires Kayankaya to find him. He investigates with his usual stubbornness, even pursuing after he gets beaten up a couple of times.

Kayankaya is a loner, a heavy drinker, a disillusioned man with an acerbic wit. And constantly mistreated because of his origins. I forgot how old these books are. This one was written in the 80s and to read about the way Kayankaya is treated was quite shocking. I think the status of people of Turkish origin has changed meanwhile. At least I hope so. Creating a character like this in the 80s must have been pretty provocative.

I’m not too sure what to think about this book. I found the first in the series, Happy Birthday, TürkeHappy Birthday, Turk, so much better. But while I didn’t care for the story of More Beer, I loved the writing. I’d forgotten just how well Arjouni writes. The novel is full of memorable metaphors like when the narrator compares rain drops on a windshield to a herd of animals running.  For that alone, I might reread it and will certainly not wait another ten years before I read the third one.

Arjouni, Jakob
Most of Arjouni’s novels have been translated and published by Melvillehouse.
Sadly the author died of pancreatic cancer in 2013. He was 48 years old.

Mehr Bier

25 thoughts on “Jakob Arjouni: More Beer – Mehr Bier (1987) Kayankaya 2

  1. Wonderful review, Caroline. I haven’t heard of Arjouni before and so it is nice to get to know a new author. It is sad that he died young. I did some computation and discovered that he was just 22 years old when he wrote this book! So interesting! It is nice to know that he was compared to Raymond Chandler and he has the prose to match it. It is hard to compare anyone to Chandler, but it is nice that Arjouni’s prose is beautiful. I love the title of the book – ‘More Beer’ 🙂

    • Thanks, Vishy. I highly recommend him but would start with his first Happy Birthday, Turk. Yes, he was only twenty when he published the first. It’s lucky, considering how young he died. That way, at least, we have some really great books. The style is terrific.

      • Thanks Caroline. I will look for his first book ‘Happy Birthday, Turk’. 48 is such a young age to die. It is really sad. Some people start writing at 48. Thomas Hardy wrote nearly all his poetry after he turned 60 and he is regarded as one of the great poets of his time.

  2. I love the Kayankaya novels, although I agree with you that Happy Birthday, Turk is probably the stronger one of the two first. Nevertheless, also Mehr Bier is a great read. For those who have read already all Kayankaya novels, I recommend also Magic Hoffmann (that’s the original title in German!) which also has this specific Arjouni sound that make his books really unique.

  3. It’s incredible that he was published at such a young age, but after reading your review, I can see why. When I lived in Germany years ago, Turks were treated like third-class citizens. I too hope it’s better now.

  4. Nice review Caroline! I read this for German lit Month a couple of years ago having read it first some time in the 1990s and I think I saw more similarities with Marlowe than you did. It is a great krimi and an interesting insight to Turkish integration and acceptance in Germany at that point in their history. Despite Kayankaya being cruel to the rat, he is particularly sensitive towards the women characters, which I found balanced out the darkness of this book.

    • Thanks, Sarah. I should have mentioned that Marlowe is my favourite fictional charcater and I ususally care more about other elements in books. So, being compared to him isn’t doing any other character any good. He’s not a misogynist.
      The integration part is very interesting and made me feel uncomfortable.

  5. I think that I could forgive a weak plot is the writing is good.

    Kayankaya also sounds like an interesting character.

    Generally, hearing a writer is the”answer” to another writer makes me cringe as originality is so important to me. I think that your highlighting the differences with Chandler is important.

    • I could forgive the plot in this case.
      Using a character like Kayankaya was a good choice. It offers a lot of possibilities to see German society from another angle.
      Yeah, those comparisons. They rarely work.

  6. I do like Arjouni and am slowly working my way through Kayankaya all over again. I’m planning to read Ein Mann, ein Mord for German Lit Month and I never got around to reading the last couple of books.

  7. So many writers get compared to Chandler and so rarely are those comparisons just. However, the recent Benjamin Black continuation novel of Philip Marlowe was properly excellent and actually just like Chandler! So I do recommend that. Sounds like this author’s first novel is the place to start with his work. Sad to hear he died so very young.

    • Thanks you fot telling me about the Benjamin Black book. I’ll check that out.
      Yes, Arjouni’s first is the place to start.
      Very sad indeed. I remember it touched me quite a bit when I saw it.

  8. Hardboiled noir is about the only crime fiction I like. This sounded good until the part about the rat. It’s interesting that most readers would overlook cruelty to a rat, but probably not if it were a cat or dog being abused? It’s sad the author died so young.

    • To be fair – the character gets attacked by the rat but . . . I’ll spare you the details. Just this – you don’t need to take it out on an animal. It just does what its animal nature tells it to do.
      Recently I’m more and more aware of abused animals and how often they are used to show a charcater’s depravity. There’s even a horrible scene in The Quest for Christa T.
      Oh – and I had such a shock experience when I read Tim Winton’s In the Winter Dark. Three instances of cat abuse/torture in a 100 pages book.

  9. Pingback: German Literature Month V: Author Index | Lizzy's Literary Life

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