Great Book: How German Is It by Walter Abish

A deconstruction of modern Germany by a post-modern author. Abish is on the list thanks to Bloom's list of the "Western Canon'. I previously read Alphabetical Africa which was a "woah, experimental" work. This has a plot and characters and stuff and in fact is very, very good.

Ulrich Hargenau is a German author, his brother Helmrich an architect, both of them involved in the construction of post-war German identity. But Ulrich's life is built on lies, and the new Germany is literally built on the bones of the victims of the Nazi regime.

Ulrich is trying to restart his life after his involvement in a widely-publicized trial of an anarchist terrorist group which included his (now former) wife. This destruction and subterfuge is a theme that dogs him throughout the book; there is a constant threat of violence and the constant hovering ghost of his past actions and those he betrayed. His father was executed during the war - but by which side? And which side is Ulrich on?

I got more impressed as I read. I'm still trying to figure out the cover image; a man with a striped shirt, wearing a hat, barefoot, on a horse, in shallow water. An image referenced multiple times in the text. Please someone explain to me what this means. And that's just the beginning.

I will be thinking about this book for a long time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


ALL manga books are set up to read right to left... it's the traditional japanese way of literature!