Goethe Book Club
Goethe Book Club: Käsebier Takes Berlin, by Gabriele Tergit (1931; tr. 2019)
2019 translation by Sophie Duvernoy
Read and discuss works by contemporary German authors in this series hosted by the Goethe-Institut. All books can be read in recent English translation or in the German original; our discussion will be in English. Led by local German professor Amanda Sheffer (The Catholic University of America), this book club focuses on contemporary fiction and will explore experiences and thoughts about the text.
Please Note: In order to participate in the online discussion (carried out over Zoom), registrants must obtain access to the novel Käsebier Takes Berlin / Käsebier erobert den Kurfürstendamm on their own. Hard copies of the novel can be ordered through multiple vendors online; the eBook is also available for download to Kindle, iPad, and other digital reading platforms. eBook and audiobook editions of the original German edition can also be found on Goethe's Onleihe, the eLibrary of the Goethe-Institut.
Käsebier Takes Berlin (Käsebier erobert den Kurfürstendamm) by Gabriele Tergit (1931, translated by Sophie Duvernoy in 2019)
In Berlin, 1930, the name Käsebier is on everyone’s lips. A literal combination of the German words for “cheese” and “beer,” it’s an unglamorous name for an unglamorous man—a small-time crooner who performs nightly on a shabby stage for laborers, secretaries, and shopkeepers. Until the press shows up.
In the blink of an eye, this everyman is made a star: a star who can sing songs for a troubled time. Margot Weissmann, the arts patron, hosts champagne breakfasts for Käsebier; Muschler the banker builds a theater in his honor; Willi Frächter, a parvenu writer, makes a mint off Käsebier-themed business ventures and books. All the while, the journalists who catapulted Käsebier to fame watch the monstrous media machine churn in amazement—and are aghast at the demons they have unleashed.
In Käsebier Takes Berlin, the journalist Gabriele Tergit wrote a searing satire of the excesses and follies of the Weimar Republic. Chronicling a country on the brink of fascism and a press on the edge of collapse, Tergit’s novel caused a sensation when it was published in 1931. As witty as Kurt Tucholsky and as trenchant as Karl Kraus, Tergit portrays a world too entranced by fireworks to notice its smoldering edges.
RSVP Gabriele Tergit (1894–1982) was a novelist and journalist, known initially for her courtroom reporting. After gaining fame for Käsebier Takes Berlin, her writing career was cut short when the Nazis rose to power in 1933. She immediately fled to Czechoslovakia, then Palestine, and finally London. After the war, her work was largely forgotten by the public, but she continued to work on behalf of other authors as the honorary secretary of the London PEN Centre of expatriate German-speaking authors.
Sophie Duvernoy is a PhD candidate in German Literature at Yale University, where she focuses on the literature and aesthetic theory of the Weimar Republic. Her translation of Gabriele Tergit’s Käsebier Takes Berlin was published by NYRB Classics in 2019, and she is the recipient of the 2015 Gutekunst Prize for young translators. She is now working on translations of Gabriele Tergit’s Effingers and Emmy Hennings’s Das Brandmal (The Burn). Her writing and translations have appeared in the Paris Review Online, Los Angeles Review of Books, No Man’s Land, and The Offing.
Discussion of Tergit's novel will take place via Zoom on Tuesday, September 21, at 6:30pm Eastern. Please RSVP via Eventbrite in order to receive discussion prompts and the Zoom invite link.
Discussion prompts from moderator Dr. Amanda Sheffer will be emailed to all participants RSVP'd via Eventbrite in advance of the discussion. The Zoom invite and additional directions/tips for accessing the Zoom discussion will be emailed to all participants no less than 48 hours before the discussion begins. The discussion will take place in English.
Price: Free Admission
Please RSVP to receive access to the event