German Literature Month – Winner Announcement

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Some of you will remember that we announced two special giveaways at the beginning of German Literature Month.

Two people will win two sets of books. One will be the winner of the “Pick and Mix Category” and the other will be the winner of “Best Post”.

While I will let Lizzy announce the winner of the “Pick and Mix Category”, I’m announcing the winner of the “Best Post”.

It wasn’t easy to find a winner because there were so many outstanding posts, but we both named the same without much thinking.

And here goes:

Winner of the category “Best Post” is Thomas (Mytwostotinki) for his post on Ostende. 1936, Summer of Friendship.

The Hottest DishesJust Call Me Superhero

Congratulations, Thomas, you have won two books by Alina Bronsky, The Hottest Dishes of the Tartar Cuisine and Just Call Me Superhero. Thanks to Europa Editions for their generosity.

Looking Back on German Literature Month IV 2014

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Every year Lizzy and I think that German Literature Month can’t get any better and every year we are wrong. It keeps on getting better and better. More people take part – 43 this year – more blog post are being written – 174 (!) -, and the quality of the posts is surprising too. I’m so pleased and want to thank you all for participating and showing so much enthusiasm.

I tried to read all the posts, but I still have some catching up to do before next Sunday. Next Sunday Lizzy and I are giving away two books. One for the winner of the “pick and mix”- category and one for our “favourite post”. It’s not easy because there have been so many great posts.

I’m sorry if I haven’t been able to comment on some blogs, but unfortunately there are always a few with a commenting system I can’t use.

My personal month went great as well. I’ve read some outstanding books, discovered a new favourite crime writer, and managed to read most of the books on my list.

Thanks once more to everyone. And a very special thank you to my wonderful co-host Lizzy.

Welcome to German Literature Month

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Welcome everyone to German Literature Month 2014.

If we can go by the many intro posts that I’ve seen, it should be a fantastic month.

I have already started and read three books which I hope to review shortly.

I’m not as disciplined as Lizzy whose plans you can see on her blog, I will read as I please the whole month, focussing mostly on newer publications.

Unfortunately I will not be able to visit and publish a lot during the first ten days, but as soon as things have quieted down on my side, I’ll make the rounds.


A tiny piece of hostess admin before the fun begins in earnest.  The German Literature Month blog is once more up and running and all participants with blogs  (30+ – how terrific is that!) have been added to the blogroll.  If you’re joining in, and don’t see your name up in lights, so to speak, please leave a comment below and you will be added.

There are also prizes to be won by participating.  Whoever tallies the most pick and mix points will win a copy of both Berlin Tales and Vienna Tales, kindly donated by Oxford University Press.  Lizzy and I will choose our favourite post and the writer will win 2 titles by Alina Bronsky, The Hottest Dishes of The Tartar Cuisine and Call Me Superhero, kindly donated by Europa Editions.  For your reviews to be in the running for these prizes, please link them into the Mr Linky on the German Literature Month blog.

All that remains is for Lizzy and I to wish you a very enjoyable November.  🙂


German Literature Month – Some Plans and Suggestions

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Although I don’t really stick to my plans these days, I was still tempted to make a list of possible choices for German Literature Month because in the past years my lists helped others find books. I’ll attempt to read a mix of translated and not yet translated books but all by authors known in the English-speaking world.

Walter Benjamin

I started to read Walter Benjamin’s essay collection Denkbilder. Many of the essays can be found in the collection Reflections. Benjamin was a philosopher, essayist, memoirist and modernist writer, who tragically took his own life in 1940, in France, when he knew he wouldn’t be able to escape the Nazis. He has written a lot of influential books like The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Tonio Kröger

Another classic, Thomas Mann’s novella of a young artist, Tonio Kröger.

The Tongue Set Free

Another modernist writer and memoirist, just like Walter Benjamin. Elias Canetti’s The Tongue Set Free is a childhood memoir, written in a dense poetic prose.

Aller Liebe Anfang

Judith Hermann has just published her fourth book. I loved her two short story collections and appreciated Alice and now I’m curious to find out how much I’ll like her novel which just came out in Germany.

The Giraffe's Neck

I bought Judith Schalansky’s The Giraffe’s Neck when it was published in Germany, two years ago. Now it has finally been  translated.

Here’s the blurb

Adaptation is everything, something Frau Lomark is well aware of as the biology teacher at the Charles Darwin High School in a country backwater of the former East Germany. It is the beginning of the new school year, but, as people look west in search of work and opportunities, its future begins to be in doubt.

Frau Lohmark has no sympathy for her pupils and scorns indulgent younger teachers who talk to their students as peers, play games with them, or (worse) even go so far as to have ‘favourites’. A strict devotee of the Darwinian principle of evolution, Frau Lohmark believes that only the best specimens of a species are fit to succeed. But now everything and everyone resists the old way of things and Inge Lohmark is forced to confront her most fundamental lesson: she must adapt or she cannot survive.

Written with cool elegance and humane irony, The Giraffe’s Neck is an exquisite revelation of a novel, and what the novel can do, that will resonate in the reader’s mind long after the last page has been turned.

The Glory of Life

Michael Kumpfmüller has already published a few novels to high acclaim. Some have been translated. The Glory of Life is his latest book and tells the story of Kafka’s last year, during which he fell in love with Dora Diamant. I started reading it and the writing is luminous and lyrical.


The translation of Ferdinand von Schirach’s latest novel Tabu – The Girl Who Wasn’t There will be published in January. He’s another author whose every book I tend to read.

Sebastian von Eschburg, scion of a wealthy, self-destructive family, survived his disastrous childhood to become a celebrated if controversial artist. He casts a provocative shadow over the Berlin scene; his disturbing photographs and installations show that truth and reality are two distinct things.

When Sebastian is accused of murdering a young woman and the police investigation takes a sinister turn, seasoned lawyer Konrad Biegler agrees to represent him – and hopes to help himself in the process. But Biegler soon learns that nothing about the case, or the suspect, is what it appears. The new thriller from the acclaimed author of The Collini CaseThe Girl Who Wasn’t There is dark, ingenious and irresistibly gripping.


I’ve almost finished this collection of Ferdinand von Schirach’s essays. Some are interesting, some, like the one of smoking, annoyed me quite a bit, but overall they are worth reading.

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Since I’m hosting a Joseph Roth Week I’ll be reading at least two of his novels. One of them is our readalong title Flight Without End.

Flight Without End, written in Paris, in 1927, is perhaps the most personal of Joseph Roth’s novels. Introduced by the author as the true account of his friend Franz Tunda it tells the story of a young ex-office of the Austro-Hungarian Army in the 1914- 1918 war, who makes his way back from captivity in Siberia and service with the Bolshevik army, only to find out that the old order, which has shaped him has crumbled and that there is no place for him in the new “European” culture that has taken its place. Everywhere – in his dealings with society, family, women – he finds himself an outsider, both attracted and repelled by the values of the old world, yet unable to accept the new ideologies.

The Emperor's Tomb

The Emperor’s Tomb might be the second choice.

The Emperor’s Tomb is a magically evocative, haunting elegy to the vanished world of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and to the passing of time and the loss of youth and friends. Prophetic and regretful, intuitive and exact, Roth’s acclaimed novel is the tale of one man’s struggle to come to terms with the uncongenial society of post-First World War Vienna and the first intimations of Nazi barbarities.

The Winter of the Lions

Jan Costin Wagner is a German crime author whose books are set in Finland. A very unique mix. I’m reading the third in his Kimmo Joentaa series The Winter of the Lions and like it so much, I already got another one. I’m particularly fond of the writing. It’s so sparse and dry. Decidedly more literary than mainstream.

Every year since the tragic death of his wife, Detective Kimmo Joentaa has prepared for the isolation of Christmas with a glass of milk and a bottle of vodka to arm himself against the harsh Finnish winter. However, this year events take an unexpected turn when a young woman turns up on his doorstep.

Not long afterwards two men are found murdered, one of whom is Joentaa’s colleague, a forensic pathologist. When it becomes clear that both victims had recently been guests on Finland’s most famous talk show, Kimmo is called upon to use all his powers of intuition and instinct to solve the case. Meanwhile the killer is lying in wait, ready to strike again…

In Kimmo Joentaa, prizewinning author Jan Costin Wagner has created a lonely hero in the Philip Marlowe mould, who uses his unusual gifts for psychological insight to delve deep inside the minds of the criminals he pursues.


Silence is Wagner’s second Kimmo Joentaa novel.

A young girl disappears while cycling to volleyball practice. Her bike is found in exactly the same place that another girl was murdered, thirty-three years before. The original perpetrator was never brought to justice – could they have struck again? The eeriness of the crime unsettles not only the police and public, but also someone who has been carrying a burden of guilt for many years…

Detective Kimmo Joentaa calls upon the help of his older colleague Jetola, who worked on the original murder, in the hope that they can solve both cases. But as their investigation begins, Kimmo discovers that the truth is not always what you expect.

Ghost Knight

I’m also tempted by Cornelia Funke’s ghost story Ghost Knight, set in and around Salisbury Cathedral.

Eleven-year-old Jon Whitcroft never expected to enjoy boarding school. He never expected to be confronted by a pack of vengeful ghosts either. And then he meets Ella, a quirky new friend with a taste for adventure…

Together, Jon and Ella must work to uncover the secrets of a centuries-old murder, while being haunted by ghosts intent on revenge. So when Jon summons the ghost of the late knight Longspee for his protection, there’s just one question – can Longspee really be trusted? A thrilling tale of bravery, friendship – and ghosts!

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These are the plans for the translated authors/books, but I might also read some of those that haven’t been translated yet, like Keto von Waberer.

Have you read any of these books? What are you’re plans?

Wednesday is Wunderbar – German Literature Month – Giveaways

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Thanks to the generosity of different publishers, Lizzy and I are able to give away a number of wonderful books.

I’m particularly pleased to give away a copy of the e-book of Anna Katharina Hahn’s novel Shorter Days. I’ve often thought that it was sad that her novel hadn’t been translated because I loved it so much. I’ve read it when it came out in Germany, in 2009, at a time when I read far more German than English books. Since then it’s among my top 5 German books of the last decade. I was really happy when I saw that Frisch & Co, an e-book publisher, was going to publish the novel in October.

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Here’s the publisher’s blurb

It’s fall in Stuttgart, just before Halloween, and thirty-something mothers Judith and Leonie are safely ensconced in their upscale apartments in one of the city’s best neighborhoods. Judith has squeezed her life into the straitjackets of stay-at-home Waldorf motherhood—no TV, no sweets, nature hikes, and, above all, routine—and marriage to staid university professor Klaus. Leonie is proud of her work at a bank and her husband Simon’s career, though she worries that she’s neglecting her young daughters, and that Simon’s work distracts him from his family. Over the course of a few days, Judith and Leonie’s apparently stable, successful lives are thrown into turmoil by the secrets they keep, the pressures they’ve been keeping at bay, and the waves of change lapping at the peaceful shores of their existence.

Shorter Days is a heartrending exploration of the joys, challenges, and dangers of modern family life.

The second book I am giving away is a nonfiction book, published by Pushkin Press, Maxim Leo’s Red Love: The Story of an East German Family. I haven’t read it but it sounds very interesting.

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Here’s the blurb

Growing up in East Berlin, Maxim Leo knew not to ask questions. All he knew was that his rebellious parents, Wolf and Anne, with their dyed hair, leather jackets and insistence he call them by their first names, were a bit embarrassing. That there were some places you couldn’t play; certain things you didn’t say.

Now, married with two children and the Wall a distant memory, Maxim decides to find the answers to the questions he couldn’t ask. Why did his parents, once passionately in love, grow apart? Why did his father become so angry, and his mother quit her career in journalism? And why did his grandfather Gerhard, the Socialist war hero, turn into a stranger?

The story he unearths is, like his country’s past, one of hopes, lies, cruelties, betrayals but also love. In Red Love he captures, with warmth and unflinching honesty, why so many dreamed the GDR would be a new world and why, in the end, it fell apart.

“Tender, acute and utterly absorbing. In fine portraits of his family members Leo takes us through three generations of his family, showing how they adopt, reject and survive the fierce, uplifting and ultimately catastrophic ideologies of 20th-century Europe. We are taken on an intimate journey from the exhilaration and extreme courage of the French Resistance to the uncomfortable moral accommodations of passive resistance in the GDR.

“He describes these ‘ordinary lies’ and contradictions, and the way human beings have to negotiate their way through them, with great clarity, humour and truthfulness, for which the jury of the European Book Prize is delighted to honour Red Love. His personal memoir serves as an unofficial history of a country that no longer exists… He is a wry and unheroic witness to the distorting impact – sometimes frightening, sometimes merely absurd – that ideology has upon the daily life of the individual: citizens only allowed to dance in couples, journalists unable to mention car tyres or washing machines for reasons of state.” Julian Barnes, European Book Prize

With wonderful insight Leo shows how the human need to believe and to belong to a cause greater than ourselves can inspire a person to acts of heroism, but can then ossify into loyalty to a cause that long ago betrayed its people.” Anna Funder, author of Stasiland


I’d like to thank Frisch & Co. and Pushkin Press for their generosity.

If you’d like to enter the giveaway, leave a comment, indicating for which book you’d like to enter. You can enter for both, of course.

Don’t miss visiting Lizzy’s site as she’s giving away titles from other publishers.

The giveaway is open internationally. The winners will be announced on Sunday, 5th October 2014. 


Announcing German Literature Month IV – November 2014

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Good morning/afternoon/evening, German(-language) literature lovers.  It’s time to look through your TBR piles and hunt out all the German literature you can find.  #germanlitmonth is returning for year four!

In years past Lizzy and I have structured the whole month for guidance, but now that a wealth of ideas and reviews exists in the blogosphere (see footnote), we no longer think that’s necessary.  This year we’re each going to host a themed week, leaving the rest of the month for you to read as you please. However, to make things more playful, we’re incorporating an optional pick and mix!

The overall structure of the month looks like this.

Nov 1-2      Introductions and reading plans

Nov 3-9      Award Winners Week (hosted by Lizzy)

Nov 10-23  Read as You Please

Nov 24-30 Joseph Roth Week (hosted by Caroline, with the Literature and War group read, Flight Without End, on the 29th)

Joseph Roth

At any time during the month you can pick and mix by reading and posting about any of the categories listed below, Each review will receive at least one entry into a prize draw. If the review fits multiple categories, you will earn multiple entries.  For example if you participate in my Literature and War read, you will get two entries: 1 for category 5 and another for category 6.

Pick and Mix Categories

1) Read and review an award winner.

2) Read and review a work that is not a novel.

3) Read and review a recommendation from German Literature Months 1-3. (See footnote)

4)To commemorate the 25th anniversary of The Fall of the Wall, read and review a work relating to the GDR or the Berlin Wall.

5) To commemorate armistice day, read and review a work relating to the First World War

6) Read and review a work written by or relating to Joseph Roth

7) Read a work published in German original or in translation during 2014

For the purposes of clarity, all reviews must relate to works originally written in German, regardless of the author’s nationality.  The winner of the pick and mix prize will be announced during the first week of December.

Apart from that, there are no other rules.  You can participate in the themed weeks and the pick and mix as much or as little as you wish. You can do your own thing too, if you so chose.  If you don’t have a blog, you are welcome to review on librarything or goodreads or similar or even write a guest post for one of the host blogs.

The main focus of the month is to share and enjoy German-language literature.  We hope you  decide to join us.


Footnote – Indices of reviews from previous years

German Literature Month 2011 (

German Literature Month 2012 (

German Literature Month 2013