On Friedrich Ani’s Naked Man, Burning – Nackter Mann, der brennt (2016) German Crime at its Best

I discovered Friedrich Ani on the list for the German Book Prize. Several years, until 2016, he occupied the second place. Last year, finally, he won the prize with his novel Der namenlose Tag – The Nameless Day. If I’m not completely mistaken, that will be his first English translation. It’s due out in December.

I’m surprised he hasn’t been translated earlier as he’s published so much. If Nackter Mann, der brennt Naked Man, Burning – is anything to go by, this was a huge omission. He’s fabulous. This novel reminded me a lot of Pascal Garnier’s novels, only I’d say, Ani’s better; his writing is more original. The way he plays with words, uses quotes from songs or films, his interesting sentence structures and the way he combines words is unique.

Naked Man, Burning is a dark tale, a real noir. Coelestin fled his home village at the age of fourteen. Forty years later, under a fake name and looking nothing like he used to, he returns. The book opens with Ludwig getting ready for a funeral. This is how the novel begins (my translation)

Praised be Jesus Christ, I thought, crossed myself and opened the door to the storeroom, where my guest was hatching his fear. He stared at me and I closed the door again. This was going to be a day to my liking.

Soon the reader understands that Ludwig doesn’t only hold someone captive but that he might have had something to do with the death of the person being buried.

Why did Ludwig disappear? Why did he change his name and looks? And why is he threatening older men? The reader knows very quickly that they are responsible for a  lot of ugly things that happened a long time ago. Bit by bit we learn what that was and then we watch, with uneasy fascination, how Ludwig illustrates the old saying – revenge is a dish best served cold.

I hope this book will be translated. It’s chilling, original, dark, and has a pretty unexpected ending. And the strong voice and language are so amusing, eloquent, and fresh. I can assure you, there aren’t many crime writers like Ani.

I picked this book because the premise appealed to me and because it’s a standalone. Most of his other novels are part of  a series.

17 thoughts on “On Friedrich Ani’s Naked Man, Burning – Nackter Mann, der brennt (2016) German Crime at its Best

    • It is. I’ll be readig his prize winner soon. Too bad it won’t be out before the end of the year. But pssibly some review copies for German Lit Month. 🙂

  1. A few years ago, I read one of his “Süden” series and didn’t like it. I don’t even properly remember why (this was quite a while ago). But I like the idea of this being a standalone and given that you’ve enjoyed it so much I’m inclined to give him a second chance.

    • I hope you will like it. His style is very distinctive and from what I saw when I dipped into his other novels, that’s the way he writes, so i really hope you’ll have another experience with this.

  2. It does sound excellent – and good to hear that there’s a translation of one of his books in the way., that’s great news. I’ve done well with European crime novels in the past so he’s definitely a writer of interest to me.

    • Since you like Garrnier, you might like it. I found there was a similarity. But it also reminded me of some other noir. I’m not sure how some of the allusions to German songs would work in te translation though.

  3. The premise of this book does sound very good.

    My wife reads a lot of books in this genre and I think that she would like this. I really need to try a few books of this type myself.

    • There are so many crime novels around, many on the more literary side, exploring society, philosophy, . . . I’m sure there’s an author out there you’d really like. I hope to review the one that comes out in December in English. If it’s good, you can tell your wife.

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