‘Painted by a blind man’ is the arresting tagline of a New York exhibition that catapults artist Manuel Kaminski to international fame. He had begun his career with normal eyesight and moderate talent: now he looks out inscrutably through dark glasses while the newspapers hail his genius and his canvases sell for giddy sums. Of course his sudden stardom is followed by an equally precipitous decline: the art press trashes his next big show and he retreats to the Swiss mountains to live out the rest of his life in peace. Old, ill and all but forgotten, he is the perfect subject for journalist Sebastian Zöllner who is planning a warts-and-all biography to boost his career. All Zöllner needs are some scandalous details and a burst of free publicity when the ailing painter hurries up and dies.
Unfortunately for Zöllner, the story is out of his control. After invading Kaminski’s home and privacy, he finds himself on a road trip with the curmudgeonly artist who turns out to be less vulnerable than he seems. Is the old painter dependent on the young journalist – or vice versa? ‘Me and Kaminski’ is a hugely entertaining novel about the world of art and the art of life.
Quercus, 2008, 256 pp.
About the Author
Daniel Kehlmann was born in Munich in 1975 and lives in Berlin and New York. He came to international attention with ‘Measuring the World’, a fictional exploration of the lives of two nineteenth-century scientists. Other works in translation include ‘Fame’ and ‘F’.
About the Translator
Carol Brown Janeway (1944 – 2015) is known for her translations of works including Bernhard Schlink’s ‘The Reader’ and Thomas Bernhard’s ‘My Prizes’. She was also a respected and influential editor at Knopf Doubleday.
Bookshelf / Bücherregal
This edition of the bookshelf is inspired by movies from the programme of the 2016 German Film Festival. If you saw or wanted to see ‘4 Kings’, ‘You Remain the Farmer’, ‘Organized’ or ‘The People vs. Fritz Bauer’, you might find something here for your reading list.
Just Call Me Superhero (Nenn mich einfach Superheld)
Translated by Tim Mohr
Europa Editions, 2014
Seventeen-year-old Marek is attacked by a Rottweiler and struggles to come to terms with his disfigurement. His exasperated mother enrols him in a support group for young people with physical disabilities. He calls it the ‘cripple group’ and treats the unusual methods of its leader with contempt. This coming-of-age story from Alina Bronsky is darkly comic and sharply observed.
A Whole Life (Ein ganzes Leben)
Translated by Charlotte Collins
Shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, Seethaler’s novel follows the life of Andreas Egger who arrives in the Austrian Alps as a young boy at the beginning of the twentieth century and watches his remote valley change over time. The story of a simple life, beautifully told.
Measuring the World (Die Vermessung der Welt)
Translated by Carol Brown Janeway
Kehlmann juxtaposes the quests for knowledge of two great Enlightenment figures, contrasting the adventures of nineteenth-century explorer Alexander von Humboldt with the quiet work of Carl Friedrich Gauss, who sought to get the measure of the universe without leaving home. Their attempts to impose clarity on the world are hampered by mundane problems and interrupted by fantastical visions as chaos stirs beneath the surface.
The Collini Case (Der Fall Collini)
Ferdinand von Schirach
Translated by Anthea Bell
Penguin Books, 2014
An industrialist is found dead in his hotel suite and a man has confessed to the murder. For the prosecution, it is a closed case, but the defence lawyer is determined to uncover a motive. The trail takes him into the German past and the German legal system as he confronts questions about responsibility for past and present crimes.
Text: Sally-Ann Spencer
Copyright: Goethe-Institut New Zealand, 2016