Friday Favourites: German Classics

German literature is the only literature where I feel fairly well-read in. Recently I haven’t been reading it as much as I used to but I plan to remedy that at some point. Until then I thought I would give a bit of a shout out to some my favourite German classics (modern and otherwise).

Faust – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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No list of German classics would be complete with this, quite possibly THE defining play in German literature. I first read this in school and adored it. I have seen it in theaters all over Germany (my favourite being a student production in Weimar with a female Mephistopheles and a Faust incongruously played by the most beautiful man imaginable (he went on to participate in some casting show I never watched but me and my friend I saw the production with still feel weirdly proud of that fact)) and cannot recommend doing this enough. My flatmate in uni told me the English translation is not quite as brilliant but I still think reading this is well worth anybody’s time.

Also, I wanted to get a quote from this tattooed for the longest time – I am nothing if not pretentious.

Group Portrait with Lady (Gruppenbild mit Dame) – Heinrich Böll

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I adored every book by Böll I have read (and just got my dad’s collection of all his works and will be reading more over the coming months) but this one is my favourite. The narrative structure works extremely well and the whole book just gives a brilliant glimpse into 20th century Germany.

The Perfume (Das Parfüm) – Patrick Süskind

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This postmodern work does not get enough love, I find. It might be because part of its appeal is the way it alludes to other literary works in a way that for me felt like a treasure hunt and for others ended feeling pretentious and tedious (I also read this in school and my classmates’ opinion were SO divided). If you like clever, dark, and super wonderful stories, this might be for you. And I will have to reread this at some point because I have read so much since school and would surely find more of the allusions now.

On tangled paths (Irrungen, Wirrungen) – Theodor Fontane

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This is definitely one of those books that works the best when talked about extensively. Fontane writes with a purpose that makes it difficult to get into. Every word is there for a reason, every metaphor was placed intendly. I adore the dryness of his prose and his storytelling and analyzing this is one of my fondest memories of my high school years.

Also, can we talk about how ‘meh’ the English title is? Like, seriously.

And finally, we all knew this was coming:

Medea – Christa Wolf & Kassandra – Christa Wolf

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Christa Wolf is, handsdown, my favourite German author. I find it a shame that she never won the Nobel Prize (and Grass did, but that is a rant for another time) and that she is not more widely read. Those two books are feminist re-tellings of, you guessed it, the Medea and the Kassandra myth respectively. Wolf’s perfect command of the German language is impeccable, her feeling for rhythm genius, and her ability to get at the emotional heart of these stories unparalled (I find).

What are your favourite classics? What is the one book you would recommend to everybody? Do let me know!

Friday Favourites – Series Edition #1: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

I like talking about the things I like (who doesn’t, I guess), so I will be trying to post about my favourite book related things regularly (I will aim for every second friday but I’ll have to wait and see if I can manage that). I will talk about my favourite authors and why they rule, about my favourite genres and why they make me happy, my favourite books and why they stick with me. And so on and so forth. There are so many things I love about books, I am sure I will be able to go on for a while. So without further ado, here’s this week’s thing I love:

 

The Rivers of London Series by Ben Aaronovitch

I am chronically bad at sticking with series (this is true both for TV shows and for books). It is rare that I love a series enough to not only stick with it but also to eagerly await the next installment without losing the will to keep reading. This is such a rare series. I adore everything about it and I cannot wait to read the next book (which will hopefully come out next year – making it one my most anticipated books).

Peter is one of the best protagonists I have ever encountered and his voice is just perfectly suited for the stories told. He is capable without being over-powered, he is optimistic without being unrealistic, and most importantly he seems like a genuinely nice guy. But he isn’t the only great character in the books; especially Guleed holds a special place in my heart and their interaction is just lovely. The Rivers are brilliant and all fully-fleshed out (and their family-dynamic is so realistic!).

I adore the way Ben Aaronovitch is slowly fleshing out his world – he is taking his time and it feels that much more real this way. Every book adds a new layer and I cannot wait to see where this series will go. While fleshing out his world he is also always adding new layers to his characters making them interesting and changing and oh so very brilliant.

I just love love love this series and the wait between the installments is kind of killing me. I am a bit jealous of my partner because he is only reading the 4th book now and has more to read after. I am also sometimes jealous of his single-mindedness when it comesto books – he can read one book after another of any series and I sometimes wonder how that changes one’s opinion on books. You can get so much more immersed into a world if you do not take extensive breaks between each installment.

What are your thoughts on this series? Have you read any of the books? What are some of your favourite series? How do you read series – one book after the other or with breaks inbetween?

Friday Favourites: Book Edition #1

I like talking about the things I like (who doesn’t, I guess), so I will be trying to post about my favourite book related things regularly (I will aim for every second friday but I’ll have to wait and see if I can manage that). I will talk about my favourite authors and why they rule, about my favourite genres and why they make me happy, my favourite books and why they stick with me. And so on and so forth. There are so many things I love about books, I am sure I will be able to go on for a while. So without further ado, here’s this week’s thing I love:

Kassandra by Christa Wolf

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Mit der Erzählung geh ich in den Tod.

There are no words to describe how much this book means to me. The first time I read it in my teens, it overwhelmed me but also made me feel awed; I have reread this book plenty of times but still, I am in absolute awe in the face of the work of genius Christa Wolf has created here.

“Kassandra” is part stream of consciousness, part eulogy, part feminist manifesto. The daughter of Priamos is sitting in front of the castle in Mykene and knows her life is nearly over; most people she knows are dead and the Troy she grew up in isn’t anymore – but she is still strong, still herself, still unashamed and thinking back on her life. Christa Wolf created a wonderful character, her reimagining of Kassandra is vivid and undeniably brilliant. Kassandra is flawed, her fall is very much her own making, but she owns it, herself, everything; she is always herself even in the face of tragedy, she does not lie to herself, does not make herself out to be more than she is, she is my absolute hero. Her relationship with Aeneas still to this day is my favourite fictional relationship; her refusal to agree to morally wrong decisions even if her disagreement does not change a thing is something I aspire to.

The book is short but every sentences, every word, every contraction is deliberate and packs a punch; not one sentence is without a reason in the greater flow of this work. A mixture between long, run-on sentences and short ellipses makes this book insanely readable but at the same time forces the reader to pay attention to every single thing going on.

I love this book, have loved it for a long time and will definitely keep rereading it forever.

What are your favourite re-tellings? It is one of my favourite types of books and I am always looking for recommendations; especially for re-tellings with a feminist twist (because I am nothing if not predictable).

 

Friday Favourites: Author Edition #1

I like talking about the things I like (who doesn’t, I guess), so I will be trying to post about my favourite book related things regularly (I will aim for every second friday but I’ll have to wait and see if I can manage that). I will talk about my favourite authors and why they rule, about my favourite genres and why they make me happy, my favourite books and why they stick with me. And so on and so forth. There are so many things I love about books, I am sure I will be able to go on for a while. So without further ado, here’s this week’s thing I love:

David Mitchell6538289

I adore the way he crafts his stories: he plays with time and space and convention; he mixes genres and voices and he is undeniably brilliant. I adore the way he writes unpleasant characters and makes me care for them anyway.

One of the reasons I adore him so is how he plays with time lines: my favourite of his books are more connected short stories than “normal” novels; he tells his stories unchronologically but all the more beautifully (I adore this way of telling stories).

I have not yet all of his books but here are the ones of his I have read plus a mini-mini-review for each.

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The Bone Clocks:

This was the first of his books I have read and while I didn’t love love it, it was enough to go out of my way to pick up his other books. This book is stronger in the beginning where his brilliant way of creating characters shines; he manages to infuse even the side characters with enough personality to make them real (often with a sentence and a half that paints such a vivid picture). The ending got a bit out there with the war between different factions of immortals but this is still a book I loved.

4 out of 5 stars

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Cloud Atlas

His most famous book was the one I fell in love with. After finishing this, with the biggest smile on my face if I might add, I just knew I had to read every single one of his books. I had actually seen the movie before reading this and enjoyed that but this book is just beyond brilliant. It is definitely in my top 10 favourite books of all time and I cannot imagine it ever losing a spot on that. Again, his characters are brilliant, the way this novel is structured is astonishing, the way he plays with language makes me happy and I just loved this.

5 out of 5 stars (obviously)

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Ghostwritten

David Mitchel’s debut novel is already brilliant. Here he first uses the format he perfected for Cloud Atlas and it works absolutely brilliant as well. I think it was with this book that I started to really notice the connections between his books and that added to my love for both this book and for his body of work in general.

5 out of 5 stars

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Black Swan Green

This novel is the most conventional of Mitchell’s novels; it is partly autobiographical and shows the struggles of a teenage boy: with his stutter, with finding a place in the world, with his relationship to his family. While it is a good book, for me it does not come close to the genius of the books I read before. But I have seen people name this as their favourite of Mitchell’s novels, so I guess it comes down to genre preference. And I usually prefer genre fiction with literary aspects to coming of age stories.

3 out of 5 stars

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Slade House

This creepy little novella is a companion novel to The Bone Clocks and I adored this. Again, I found parts of the eternal war between immortals overdone but the first three stories in this horror novel were unsettling, beautiful, and memorable. My review for it is here.

4 out of 5 stars

There are two of his books I have not read yet:

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This is one of the five potential five star reads I picked last month so I am hoping to get to this soon.

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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

This one I have started before but somehow was not in the mood for historical fiction (it is a genre I frequently struggle with but sometimes really really love), even if it is historical fiction written by David Mitchell. I will definitely come back to this at some point, obviously.

Have you read any of David Mitchell’s books? What did you think?