Tilman Rammstedt: The King of China

translated by Katy Derbyshire

We meet Keith Stapperpfennig under his desk, his knees padded with washing–up sponges. He’s supposed to be holidaying in China with his eccentric grandfather but that didn’t quite work out, so he’s gone into hiding. And now Keith gets a call telling him his grandfather is dead – and not in China either. Trouble looms on all sides; his brothers and sisters will be angry, his fiancé will be furious. They simply must not find out. 

With the aid of a guidebook, Keith writes a series of letters home to his brothers and sisters, detailing their imaginary travels and the bizarre sights they see. All this develops into a heart-warming love story between his grandfather and the fattest woman in the world, while we learn of Keith’s own amorous adventures gone awry and his rather unusual upbringing. Plus of course there’s the real trip to identify the body.

Funny, fast–paced, touching, Chinese – or perhaps not Chinese – Tilman Rammstedt’s novel won him the prestigious Ingeborg Bachmann Prize in 2008 and sealed his fame as one of Germany’s most fabulous liars.


German original published by DuMont Verlag, Köln, under the title Der Kaiser von China in 2008.