Thursday, 12 October 2017

#24Before25: German Books That I've Read

In the spirit of my birthday month, I thought it would be nice to continue on the review of my 24 Before 25 List. As is the case for several years, last year my list contains literary challenges as well—not one, not two, but four. For this post, though, I would just like to focus on the German books challenge. I didn't put a minimum number of books to read, which is nice, considering how unpredictable my life had become. Most of these books were given to me for free by my friends who still reside in Germany, so I'm super psyched about them. And, you know what, reading in German is definitely different from English—there's a character in each language, you know. Albeit not all these books are originally German—one is translated from Japanese, one from Swedish and one actually from English—the experience is more or less the same. Let's get started, shall we?

Der Dieb by Fuminori Nakamura

My friend Frederick got this at the Frankfurt Book Fair—it's a proofed manuscript, not for sale—and he didn't like the genre, so gave it to me. It's a very thin book—around 200-something pages—so it was a great introduction to the whole reading-in-German thing. It's actually been a while, though, since I last read a Japanese novel and I often forget how poetic even the proses can be. This book is concealed almost fully in mystery. To this day, I'm not entirely sure what the story is about—something along the line of mafia/hitman—but I will try my best to jog my memory. The story follows the main character, a professional pickpocket who, after an encounter and dangerous mission from a yakuza clan in Tokyo, drifts through the city, unsure of the condition of his partner—alive or dead? His world is painted black in the cold of the winter and his skills untouched from the traumatic experience—but he seems to still be in constant danger. I'm not sure how it ends, I feel like it has an open ending, but it was quite entertaining for a quick commute read.

Und morgen du by Stefan Ahnhem

Being the first Swedish book I've ever read, I absolutely loved this book! According to Goodreads, it's the longest book I've read this year so far—yes, it is quite thick. The story, though, wow! It's so full of mysteries, gore/blood and definitely plot twists that catch you off guard. It feels a bit like a maze, where there are twists and turns that you wouldn't expect to be there. The story follows Fabian Risk, a police officer who just moves back to his hometown of Helsingborg from Stockholm due to a sort of scandal. Not two minutes into his new house, he is already welcomed into town with a murder case. At first, he doesn't want to be involved just yet, because his working period has yet to start. However, it turns out the victims and crime scene are remnants of his childhood memory, which dragged him in anyway. Not only are there multiple murder cases, the victims are also killed violently—being quite vividly described throughout the book. It is so gripping! I found it very hard to put the book down—even at night, when I usually don't read scary things. Definitely one of the best reads of the year!

Archie Greene und die Bibliothek der Magie by D.D. Everest

Although translated from English—and being set in the UK—I've never heard of this book before. I felt quite encouraged when I saw the cover and it mildly reminds me of The Pagemaster. However—I don't know if it's the story or if it was just my preference at the time—I felt so unmotivated in reading this book until the end. I did finish it, mind you, but I definitely felt like nothing held me to the story. The characters also haven't had time to bond with each other very much before the climax happens and gets resolved. I think it is the first of several books, but I definitely will not continue the series—partly because this came to me free of charge. Younger readers might find this entertaining, though—I actually did too—but I don't see anything more to it than that.

Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo by Christiane F.

Probably one of the most intense books I've ever read in my whole life—even more so because it's non-fiction. I think this is the first German non-fiction I've ever read that isn't for school. The story follows Christiane who, at 13 years old, already tried her first heroin and got completely hooked it screwed over her life. It talks about the drug scene in late 1970s Berlin, particularly at Bahnhof Zoo, where Christiane, her boyfriend Detlef and their friends tend to hang out. Honestly, it's so scary how addicted one can be, basically selling themselves to get money for the dope and going from toilet to toilet to get it in their system. The scariest part is, at the time, Christiane wasn't an exception—many teenagers had somehow fallen victim to heroin, some of them even died. The book offers many false climaxes, with Christiane saying she wants to quit over and over again, but somehow always finds her way back to her drugs. The deeper you get into the book, the less of Christiane's dignity is intact. By the end of it, I'm just glad to get away from that whole world—and, thankfully, how different Germany is now.

Der Erdbeerpflücker by Monika Feth

This one was given to me by Iva, because she happened to find a box full of discarded books on her front door one day—this and two other books happened to be inside. It's a crime novel and—it turns out—not that bad. I actually loved reading this! The story has a really nice flow, the relationships between the characters feel natural and the case is rather interesting. We are offered various point-of-views, including the culprit's, so we know exactly who it is and how he did it, but we don't know how the others will be able to catch him. That in itself is quite exhilarating! For a thriller, it's not too thrilling, I must say. So, if you're a fan of this genre, you probably wouldn't find it as enjoyable. However, it makes up for it in philosophical and psychological backgrounds of the characters. It really gets you thinking that people are almost never as they seem. I have another book on this series—although it's the third one, since Iva mistakenly took another book and not the second one—and I just can't wait to read more books by this author.

So those are the German books that I've devoured this past year. I feel bad that there are only five, but I've still got a couple more I can flip through, so this will definitely not be the last you see me reading German books. One of the things that I've learnt from the experience is how much longer it takes me to finish books in this language—twice as long, I think—but also how differently I relate to the stories within the books. I'm sure it was pure coincidence that most of them have quite a serious/dramatic theme, but the language kind of suits it very well. In fact, it's probably much more serious and suspenseful exactly because they are written in German. Maybe next time I'll try reading comedy or romance in this language, just to see how they would feel. Also, here's a video of the top 10 YA series I used to follow as a teen—in regards to another literary challenge I gave myself on that same list. Enjoy!

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