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Book Column
Auserlesen! No. 5

“What on Earth shall I read?” Whether you’re an articulate German teacher or a German student with an appetite for books: anyone looking for suitable reading material is faced with this question. The right book should be exciting, well-written and interesting. But how do you navigate the literary forest? Auserlesen! helps by providing a varied selection!

By Karen-Susan Fessel

Kids and fun

Robert Gernhard - Gedichte © S. Fischer Verlag. Robert Gernhardt: Gesammelte Gedichte 1954 – 2006

You can start small and buy yourself one of the budget Reclam booklets with selected poetry by this exceedingly productive author, but I recommend the large portion right from the start – because Gernhardt’s highly entertaining yet extremely wise poems provide a wonderful cross-section through the history of the Federal Republic of Germany. Whether he’s taking the mickey out of the unsuspecting tourist abroad or venting about promiscuous love interests, Gernhardt always manages to capture something comical within a serious situation, enabling him to view life from the funny side. Equally suitable for beginners and advanced readers of poetry! 

Young worlds

Nessensohn © Ueberreuter Verlag Hansjörg Nessensohn: Und dieses verdammte Leben geht einfach weiter

Jonas has experienced the worst thing he could possibly have imagined, and that on the same day that he experienced the most beautiful thing he could possibly have imagined… Two years later he goes back to the place where his four year-old sister Lina disappeared because he had better things to do than look after her. But luckily Sunny and Timon have their eye on him – they pick him up en route, but each of them is hiding something from the others. Nessensohn’s fast-paced, multi-layered road movie careers unstoppably towards a highly explosive ending. A really gripping teen book debut, but not for the faint-hearted. 
 

German (hi)stories

Stanisic Herkunft © Luchterhand Literaturverlag Saša Stanišić: Herkunft

Having fled Bosnia to Germany aged 13, German literature’s  new ray of hope knew early on that he wanted to be an author – and back in the day he even secured his long-term residence permit on the basis of his future aspirations. Since then, Stasinic has attracted attention thanks to several multiple award-winning works; his book Herkunft, a sort of fragmented autobiography, has been on the bestseller lists since it was published. Admittedly I feel a theme keeping the book together is missing, but that doesn’t actually matter because essentially “Herkunft” isn’t just a memoir of the author’s youth in Bosnia and Germany, its primary function is as a loving tribute to his grandmother – and she in turn was definitely the one keeping everything together where her family was concerned.  
 

Here and now – Germany today

Bronsky - Der Zopf meiner Großmutter © Kiepenheuer & Witsch Alina Bronsky: Der Zopf meiner Großmutter

When Max and his grandparents move to Germany as late resettlers, his grandfather immediately embarks on an affair with a young pianist there, who also hopes to battle her way out of the refugee hostel and into a better future. In her latest fabulously crafted picaresque novel, Alina Bronsky tells the story of how they make it work despite huge difficulties, how the motley bunch becomes a growing patchwork family, and what role is played by the remarkable grandmother. If you were hoping for a realistic insight into an otherwise inaccessible parallel society you’ll be frustrated, but if you’re ready to embrace the brilliance and diversity of Bronsky’s story-telling then you won’t be disappointed. 
 

Life paths

Jayrôme C. Robinet - Mein Weg © Hanser Verlag Jayrôme C. Robinet: Mein Weg von einer weißen Frau zu einem jungen Mann mit Migrationshintergrund 

Robinet, who was born in France in 1977, moves to Berlin after university. At that point he’s still called Celine and lives as a woman, but all that is soon to change when his “transition” begins – the journey into life as a man. As the male hormones change his body, the way his peers perceive the former woman with dark eyes and curls changes too. And the way he himself behaves as a new man: how long can you look other men in the eyes in the changing room without being considered gay – or getting punched in the face? How is it that women suddenly cross the road at night if you’re walking towards them? Robinet dissects his effect on others and the social situation in his sharp-witted, ruthless style, homing in on detail to tell a thrilling tale of the physical and emotional changes undergone by a white woman who is increasingly viewed as a young man with a migration background, both in person and through his books – with all the advantages and disadvantages this entails. It’s exciting, not always pleasant and sometimes even stressful, but it’s always fascinating and enlightening. 

High tension alert!

Leweir - Mersand © konkursbuch Verlag Litt Leweir: Mersand

A promising job comes along just at the right time for loser Jojo: a suitcase needs to be transported on the night train. But something goes wrong – the next morning, Jojo’s lover is dead and he himself has to flee … with the suitcase full of money of course. The turbulent trip zig-zags across Europe as far as the Sahara; but whenever Jojo passes through somewhere, they all start dying like flies. And what’s going on with the mysterious people Jojo – as Mersand now calls himself – keeps encountering? In his fourth crime novel, Litt Leweir uses language economically to relate a complex story of violence, death and longing, which manages to be fun at the same time – thanks in part to the fanciful interpersonal intrigue and chaotic main character, whom you would wish no ill … An unusual setting, an interesting plot and some eccentric characters, what more could you want? 

 

Auserlesen No. 5

  • Gernhardt, Robert: Gesammelte Gedichte 1954 – 2006 (2008). Frankfurt/Main: S. Fischer Verlag.
  • Nessensohn, Hansjörg: Und dieses verdammte Leben geht einfach weiter (2019). Berlin: Ueberreuter.
  • Stanišić, Saša: Herkunft (2019). München: Luchterhand Literaturverlag. Available in audiobook format by Onleihe
  • Bronsky, Alina: Der Zopf meiner Großmutter (2019). Köln: Kiepenheuer & Witsch
  • Robinet, Jayrôme C. (2019): Mein Weg von einer weißen Frau zu einem jungen Mann mit Migrationshintergrund. Berlin: Hanser. 
  • Leweir, Litt (2017): Mersand. Tübingen: konkursbuch Verlag Claudia Gehrke.
All books are available in eBook format as well, and some of them are stocked by the Goethe Institut digital lending service, Onleihe.

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