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: 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).