I’m looking for some recommendations here.

On my recent weekend away to Germany, I noticed that my German has become quite rusty again. I say “quite rusty”… I mean that I can still translate about 800-1000 words an hour without too many problems, but in conversation I was struggling to find that elusive word “achieve” (“erzielen” or “schaffen”).

So that, along with the fact that I hardly read any German books at all, and when I do they’re usually in translation from the English, means it’s time to make an effort on this front.

I have borrowed and ripped a whole stack of German audiobooks from the Book Accumulator, including translations of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Candide, and a whole set of Georges Simenon’s MAIGRET stories. The only German audiobooks I took were Faust and a radio play (!) of Heinrich Böll’s The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum.

A brief trip to Westminster library a few days ago led to me tripping my way back to my client across Mount St Gardens with 4 German novels in hand:

Berhand Schlink’s The Reader and Perfume, a smaller Böll (The Bread of Our Youth) and W. G. Sebald’s Austerlitz.

But what I’m really looking for here are novels I must read in the original German which are less famous in translation (I’ve already read two of those above in translation, although in my pre-blogging days). What are the classics of German literature that I would have read as a school child in Germany?


9 thoughts on “German

  1. winstonsdad 10 March 2012 at 5:37 pm Reply

    heinrich von kleist ,goethe maybe I lived in germany for a few years great selection of books to bring back ,all the best stu

    • readingwithtea 10 March 2012 at 7:53 pm Reply

      Yes I discovered that the short story collection I had filched from The Book Accumulator included Kleist “Das Erdbeben in Chili” and “Der Marquise von O”.

  2. The Twin 10 March 2012 at 6:31 pm Reply

    Die Buddenbrooks – Thomas Mann (you’re going to love it – if you prefer listening to it get this one: ) – Nobel Prize for Literature
    Effie Briest – Theodor Fontane
    Schachnovelle – Stephan Zweig (very short but oh so good – the Book Accumulator gave it to me as a birthday present once)
    Momo – Michael Ende (LOVE!)
    Brot und Spiele – Siegfried Lenz
    Homo Faber – Max Frisch (a must, but nothing to enjoy)

    – that should keep you busy for a week 😉

  3. Liburuak 11 March 2012 at 10:34 am Reply

    Let me think back to those school days… 😉 – nah, I’m just going to list some I really enjoyed, whether I read them for school or not. I also have to say that my knowledge of the German classics is a bit truncated because I spent the last two years of school in the UK, where I did have a “German for native speakers” class, but we also read a lot of world literature
    in translation (I did the International Baccalaureate), so I think I missed out on some important German works.

    – Friedrich Dürrenmatt – Das Versprechen; Der Richter und sein Henker; Die Physiker (the last one is a play, but I LOVE it)
    – Max Frisch: Mein Name sei Gantenbein (I agree with the Twin that I didn’t enjoy “Homo faber” very much). I enjoyed his plays more though, especially “Biedermann und die Brandstifter” and “Andorra”.
    – J.W. Goethe – Die Wahlverwandtschaften
    – Anna Seghers – Das siebte Kreuz (excellent!); Transit
    – Theodor Fontane – Effi Briest
    – Erich Maria Remarque – Im Westen nichts Neues (you have to brace yourself for this one, but it’s extremely good)
    – Alfred Andersch: Sansibar oder der letzte Grund

    A newer one that I recently read and enjoyed a lot was “Tannöd” by Andrea Maria Schenkel. It’s a tiny novella you can read in one afternoon.

    Then there are some that one probably “should” read, but personally I didn’t enjoy them very much:
    – Annette von Droste-Hülshoff: Die Judenbuche
    – J.W. Goethe: Die Leiden des jungen Werther (I found Werther to be unbearably whiny, but I suppose it’s a must)
    – Günter Grass: I read “Katz und Maus” and “Im Krebsgang” and wasn’t a fan of either. The really “big” one here is “Die Blechtrommel”, which I’m attempting for the Classics Club.
    – Thomas Mann: Tod in Venedig

    I also have some on my Classics Club list that I haven’t read yet – you’re more than welcome to join me :). I might remember some more later on, so I may well get back to you again.

    • readingwithtea 11 March 2012 at 2:13 pm Reply

      Are you sure you’re not The Twin in disguise? We met when she came to the UK to do the IB and she did the German A1 class.

      I have read Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice in translation (it was compulsory for English World Lit for the IB), and I’m sure I read Die Physiker at school at some point but I don’t remember much of it. Thanks for all the suggestions!

      • Liburuak 11 March 2012 at 6:21 pm

        I’ve had another think and have come up with two that I previously missed. First, I didn’t mention Hermann Hesse. I’ve read three of his books in total, Narziss und Goldmund; Das Glasperlenspiel; and Steppenwolf, all within a relatively short timespan (about two years during sixth form). After that, I think I can never touch a book by him again. He was a very strange man. The whole mysticism thing really got to me after a while. Oddly, I think the book I enjoyed the most was Das Glasperlenspiel, although I don’t think I ever quite understood it.

        Second, I remembered reading and quite liking “Nachtzug nach Lissabon” by Pascal Mercier. I need to stop thinking about your question or else I’ll wind up completely clogging up your comments 🙂

  4. Caroline 11 March 2012 at 3:37 pm Reply

    I did two intro posts when I and Lizzy organized German Literature Month last year.
    The first is about writers in general and the second focusses on women writers.
    The participants have contributed some 150+ reviews that are all on my page. I’m sure you will find something.. maybe too much. 🙂

  5. constancetitterton 16 March 2012 at 11:23 am Reply

    Liburuak mentioned this, but The Glass Bead Game! (Herman Hesse.) I wish I knew German so I could read this untranslated. It’s one of my favourite books ever. It took me about three years to read it due to the fact I repeated the first half about five times, mainly because I couldn’t bear to leave that world. Once you’ve read a book through you know from the beginning that there’s an end, but if you never get to the end you can pretend the beginning’s infinite!

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