a.k.a. What I’ll probably still be reading in 10 years
As I wasn’t inspired by today’s NaBloPoMo prompt, I decided to start a new series of posts about my readings. From time to time, I will share my impressions on the books that I am reading, as a way for me to remember them and introduce you to those you may not know. Today, I will focus on three books that I am currently reading on and off in German:
- The devil lies in the detail by Peter Littger.
- Tschick by Wolfgang Herrndorf.
- Zerbrechliche Dinge, the German translation of Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman.
English for German speakers
Peter Littger’s The devil lies in the detail: Lustiges und Lehrreiches über unsere Lieblingsfremdsprache both makes fun of the Germans’ difficulties with the English language and provides all the help needed to overcome them. It is obviously intended for native German speakers, but it can also help non-natives understand why German speakers make the mistakes that they make and better decode their speech.
This is an interesting book that has a lot to offer. It can be very funny, as when the author describes Filserenglisch, a sort of hybrid language that arranges English words according to German grammar rules and involves many absurd literal translations of idiomatic expressions. But for a reader that already knows English quite well, it can also be a bit boring, as when he shares lists of tricky words and explain how to properly use them. I always stop reading when I reach such a list, which explains why I am not making any progress!
A first-person road trip novel
In a way, Tschick is a road movie on paper: two young men, Maik (the first-person narrator) and Tschick, decide to drive to Romania… and that’s about as much as I can write for now as I have only read a few chapters. The novel is built in such a way that we know from the start that things aren’t going to end well; we just have no idea why or how bad they will be. I find it a bit difficult to get inside the head of a 14-year-old boy but I am curious as to what went wrong with their trip.
This book is a gift from a German friend, but I intended to buy it before he even mentioned it to me. Since 2010, it has sold over 2 million copies, been translated in 24 languages, and won the German Youth Literature Prize 2011 and a few other awards. No wonder the book is now getting a film adaptation. Unfortunately, Herrndorf won’t get to see it: he passed away at age 48 in 2013.
Short stories and poems
As a self-proclaimed Neil Gaiman fan due to the fact that four of his novels make up my five favourite books*, I really wanted to love Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders when I read it in English, but I just couldn’t find in them what I loved so much about his novels. People usually find at least a few stories that they really like, but I don’t think I did.
So when the same German friend that gave me Tschick sent me the German translation, Zerbrechliche Dinge: Geschichten und Wunder, I wasn’t eager to read it. As it turns out, my issue with this version is completely different: it isn’t that I don’t like the stories, I just struggle to understand them. Reading blog and news articles is one thing, but literary German really isn’t my strong suit. Hopefully with time my understanding will improve and reading won’t be such an inconvenience – but will I like this book any better?
*American Gods, Anansi Boys, Neverwhere, and Stardust, the fifth book being a French novel that just got a new film adaptation, La dame dans l’auto avec des lunettes et un fusil by Sébastien Japrisot.